The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

September 15, 2012

Tornado victim’s family names Joplin Wal-Mart in wrongful-death suit

JOPLIN, Mo. — The family of a man killed inside the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Range Line Road during the May 22, 2011, tornado has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Arkansas corporation and the store’s manager.

Janice Kirk and Jodelle Kirk, both of Joplin, are listed as plaintiffs in a lawsuit that was filed July 31 in Jasper County Circuit Court and transferred Friday to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. They are the wife and daughter, respectively, of Stanley Kirk, 62, an aircraft engine technician who died as a result of injuries suffered during the EF-5 tornado that led to the deaths of 161 people.

The lawsuit names as defendants Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which operates Wal-Mart Supercenter Store No. 59, 1501 S. Range Line Road in Joplin, as well as the Joplin store’s manager, Andy Martin.

Janice Kirk and Jodelle Kirk did not respond to a message from the Globe seeking comment Saturday afternoon. Their Joplin-based attorneys, Ed Hershewe and Ashley Norman, also could not be reached for comment.

In response to a Globe request, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. issued a one-paragraph statement Saturday through Randy Hargrove, the company’s director of national media relations: “We extend our deepest sympathy to Mr. Kirk’s family. 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. We stand behind our associates and how they handled this natural disaster.”

The Globe asked Wal-Mart for details about its emergency plans in the event of a tornado, but Hargrove said he could not comment beyond the statement.

According to the lawsuit, Kirk called his wife at about 5 p.m. on May 22, 2011, to tell her he was going to the Wal-Mart store for some golf equipment. Tornado sirens sounded in Joplin about 17 minutes later.

The lawsuit alleges that “sometime after the conversation with his wife, but before approximately 5:24 p.m., (Kirk) attempted to leave the store to return home. ... (Kirk) was forced to stay in the store and (was) directed to an unsafe/improper location.”

The plaintiffs allege that the defendants failed to allow Kirk to leave the store by locking the store’s doors, which they argue also prevented access into the store for emergency personnel. According to the court records, Kirk lived only three miles away, “or a seven-minute drive,” in an area that was not hit by the tornado, but was forced to stay in the store.

The lawsuit further argues that both the Wal-Mart corporation and the store manager were negligent that night, alleging that the defendants knew or should have known that:

• The store was “located in an area that was at a high risk of tornadoes and violent wind.”

• The store was “not constructed properly, considering this increased risk of violent storms and tornadoes.”

• There was “not a proper emergency plan in place at the store, including a lack of signage and identified safe areas/tornado refuge areas.”

• Clients directed to “unsafe areas within the store” were at risk for serious injury or death during violent storms.

• There was a risk of violent storms when the tornado sirens sounded.

“(The) defendant negligently caused (Kirk) to be exposed to the dangerous storm, debris and water,” the lawsuit alleges. “Defendant’s actions and deliberate decisions negligently caused (Kirk) to receive severe injuries resulting in his death. Each negligent act by defendant, and those by and through its employees, including defendant Martin, was a direct and proximate cause of the death of (Kirk).”

In an affidavit filed Friday in Jasper County Circuit Court, Martin acknowledges he was employed as the Wal-Mart store manager on May 22, but he said he was not at work that night, having been on vacation during the preceding week.

Janice Kirk and Jodelle Kirk are seeking an unspecified amount in damages; their lawsuit cites pain and suffering, the loss of Kirk’s income, and funeral and medical expenses.

Multiple fatalities

According to Globe records, Stanley Kirk was one of at least three people who died in the May 22, 2011, tornado while inside the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Range Line Road.

1
Text Only
May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

  • Issues prompt pair to seek help from city; allocations approved for repairs in tornado zone

    Two people spoke to the Joplin City Council on Monday night about issues they would like the city government to address. Elizabeth Clement, a Neosho resident who works in Joplin, asked the city to operate more surveillance in parking lots because of the number of cars stolen. She said her car was stolen from the parking lot at Northpark Mall and used in robberies.

    April 7, 2014

  • National institute releases final report on Joplin tornado

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology on Friday released a final report into the technical investigation of the May 22, 2011, tornado that struck Joplin — the deadliest tornado in the United States in the 64 years that official records have been kept.

    March 28, 2014

  • r031814tornadofunds2.jpg Local tornado fund board cites appreciation, accomplishments

    The 991 donations ranged from $1 to $119,000. They came from all over the world. On Tuesday, the managers of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund gave an accounting of how those donations, which totaled about $995,950 with interest, were given in 41 grants, recipients of which included 27 local agencies.

    March 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Dan Riddell 0604013.jpg Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment

    After investments that included stationing a company executive in Joplin for eight months last year, officials with Farmers Insurance said the company will continue its post-tornado commitment to Joplin in 2014. “We’re going to stay until the end,” said Doris Dunn, director of community relations for the company, on Wednesday. “That includes sending in another 100-plus volunteers and making some additional financial investments.”

    February 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • r021714rescuedog.jpg Author prepares for release of children’s book featuring heroic Joplin rescue dog

    Carolyn Mueller is both a dog lover and a storyteller. So when she got the opportunity to write a story about a Joplin dog named Lily who helped search for survivors after the May 2011 tornado, she jumped on it. “Dogs like Lily can be heroes, too,” she said.

    February 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • VIDEO: Lost photos claim day to be held at museum

    National Disaster Photo Rescue and the Joplin Museum Complex have scheduled a public viewing and photo claim day for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the museum complex in Schifferdecker Park. The project, originally known as Lost Photos of Joplin, was organized in the weeks after the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado to reunite storm victims with photos displaced by the storm.

    February 4, 2014

  • Building-permit total since tornado nears $1 billion

    The building of new homes in Joplin continues at an average pace of 16 to 18 per month, according to a building permit report released for December by the city of Joplin. Eighteen building permits for new homes were issued in both November and December. In fiscal year 2013, permits for new homes averaged more than 16 per month.

    January 31, 2014

Purchase Globe Photos


Featured Ads
Facebook
Tornado: Multimedia coverage
Tornado: Obituaries
Tornado: Columns
Tornado: Mike Pound
Tornado: Lists of missing, fatalities & relief
Tornado: Donate & volunteer
Tornado: Resources & relief