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Walmart drops $1M fight against $7,000 fine in Valley Stream trampling death

Walmart in Valley Stream on Nov. 28, 2008

Walmart in Valley Stream on Nov. 28, 2008 where a worker was trampled to death by a crowd of "Black Friday" shoppers. Credit: NCPD

More than $1 million later, Walmart has thrown in the towel on its nearly 6-year fight to void a $7,000 fine and a federal citation issued after a worker was trampled to death in the retailer's Valley Stream store during a Black Friday sale, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer in May 2009, the year after a stampeding crowd crushed temporary employee Jdimytai Damour. It said that "reasonable and effective crowd-management principles were not implemented."

But the discount-store operator maintained that the agency shouldn't have issued the citation because protecting workers from crowds wasn't a federal standard at the time. Walmart Stores Inc. appealed the findings to an administrative law judge of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The judge upheld the citation and fine in 2011. Walmart appealed again. But earlier this week the retailer withdrew its appeal. A spokesman said it would pay the fine.

Walmart said it didn't want the matter to continue to drag on.

"With the likelihood that this matter would not conclude for a long time, we've decided to put it behind us and withdraw our appeal," spokesman Randy Hargrove said.

In a document filed with the commission in 2010, a Walmart attorney noted that the company had spent more than $1 million in attorneys' fees since the citation was issued.

In 2009, Walmart agreed to a nearly $2 million settlement with Nassau County to avoid criminal prosecution in the trampling death.

Hargrove said that since the tragedy, Walmart's crowd-management plans have "served as a model for the retail industry."

David Michaels, the head of OSHA, noted that the tragedy has made retailers more safety-conscious.

"We've seen evidence in recent years that retailers all over the country have adopted more safety precautions to keep their workers safe," he said.

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