JOPLIN, Mo. -- The wife and daughter of a man killed inside a Walmart store when a massive tornado hit Joplin have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company.
The Joplin Globe reported that the suit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was transferred Friday to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. It initially was filed in Jasper County Circuit Court.
The suit alleges Stanley Kirk, a 62-year-old aircraft engine technician, wasn’t allowed to leave the store and was directed to “an unsafe/improper location.” Court records said Kirk lived only three miles away, “or a seven-minute drive,” in an area that was not hit by the May 22, 2011, tornado. Of the 161 people killed, at least three died in the Walmart.
The lawsuit also claims that the store was “not constructed properly” given its location in an area at risk of violent storms and tornadoes.
Kirk’s wife, Janice, and his daughter, Jodelle, are seeking an unspecified amount in damages. Their lawsuit cites pain and suffering, the loss of Kirk’s income, and funeral and medical expenses.
Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove said in a written statement that the Bentonville, Ark.-based company stands behind its employees and how they handled the disaster.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to Mr. Kirk’s family,” the statement said. “This was a horrible tragedy for Joplin. Walmart is committed to this community, and we have worked hard to help rebuild after this tragic event. We have protocols in place for severe weather, and the safety plan our associates implemented helped save lives. “
A store manager also was named in the suit, but he said in a court filing that he wasn’t working the night of the tornado.