A lawsuit, filed over the abduction and slaying of a convenience store clerk, was settled recently. Interestingly, the settlement between the parties came just minutes before a jury was to award the victim’s three children $51 million in damages. The amount of the settlement and its terms are confidential. A state court jury had been deliberating into its second day when the family’s lawsuit against New Mexico’s largest chain of convenience stores, Allsup’s Enterprises of Clovis, was settled. The trial focused on the inadequate security practices of Allsup’s. A letter from the family to jurors said Allsup’s has promised never to challenge convenience store safety regulations in New Mexico. The letter contained this statement:

This is something Allsup’s was never willing to agree to until you—the jury—entered into deliberations following this two-week trial in which the facts of Allsup’s operations became public.

The 26-year-old was working alone overnight when she vanished in January of 2002. Her body, with 57 stab wounds, was found later that day in a field. She had been raped and then brutally murdered. Jurors had decided to assess $21.2 million in compensatory damages and $30 in punitive damages against Allsup’s. The jury was ready to deliver a verdict when the judge told them the case had been settled. Lawyers for the victim’s family said Allsup’s failure to protect clerks working the graveyard shift made the near-minimum-wage jobs the most dangerous in New Mexico. Efforts to improve safety for clerks escalated after the clerk’s death. The state Environmental Health Board ordered convenience stores that were open between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. to have two clerks on duty, station one guard with one clerk or put clerks in enclosures with bulletproof glass. The Allsup’s store where the victim, in this case, was working had no security camera. The jury had been asked to award $60 million in damages.

A 27-year-old man was convicted of two charges of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison last year for the killings of this victim and another woman, who disappeared from her job at a Hobbs department store. The second victim’s body —her throat slashed and skull fractured—was found in May of 2003 in a caliche pit. Lawyers for Allsup’s insurance carrier argued during the trial that security measures now required by the state do not deter crime and likely would not have prevented the death of the clerk in their store. They argued that Allsup’s had a policy of keeping no more than $50 in cash registers, maintaining adequate lighting at stores, giving clerks necklace alarms and training clerks to resist robbers at the time of the incident. Allegra Carpenter, a lawyer from Albuquerque, New Mexico, represented the children in the Allsup’s case and did an outstanding job.

Source: Associated Press

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