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Suit claims man hurt by runaway cart

July 21, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

andrews@herald-mail.com

A Chambersburg, Pa., man and his wife are suing Wal-Mart and a Halfway family, alleging that a girl "unleashed" - or lost control of - a shopping cart that knocked him over three years ago.

In a complaint filed this month in Washington County Circuit Court, attorney J. Gregory Hannigan alleges that the shopping cart of merchandise hit his client, Merle Dentler, "with such great force as to knock him from his feet."

Dentler injured his neck and left shoulder when he hit the pavement and briefly lost consciousness, the suit alleges.

Dentler and his wife, Emily Dentler, are seeking more than $100,000 to cover medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering, the complaint says.

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Hannigan said the Dentlers filed their complaint just before the three-year statute of limitations to preserve their right to sue. It might be settled out of court, he said.

The defendants are the Wal-Mart store in Hagerstown and Patrick and Eileen Hoffmaster of Halfway and their daughter, a minor who is not mentioned by name in the complaint.

The complaint says the Dentlers were shopping at Wal-Mart in Hagerstown the evening of July 6, 2002.

Outside the store, the Hoffmasters "relinquished control of" the shopping cart to their daughter, "a child much lighter than the shopping cart and its contents," the complaint says.

The cart was then "propelled" into the parking area, striking Merle Dentler and knocking him over, the complaint alleges.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Hannigan said he hasn't watched a store videotape of the incident.

At the time of the incident, Merle Dentler had recently left a job with Chambersburg Hospital and opened his own business, Dentler's Plumbing & Heating in Chambersburg, Hannigan said.

Merle Dentler, 59, still experiences lost strength and range of motion, Hannigan said.

Dentler didn't return phone messages left at his home Monday and Tuesday.

Patrick Hoffmaster initially agreed to tell The Herald-Mail his side of what happened. As he started to on Tuesday evening, he cut the interview short and asked a reporter to call him back later, but he couldn't be reached again.

On Wednesday evening, Hoffmaster said he was advised not to talk about the case, so he won't.

The complaint says a Wal-Mart employee - identified only as "Manager Bernie" - was there when the Hoffmasters transferred the shopping cart to their daughter.

Christi Gallagher, a spokeswoman at Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., said Tuesday she hadn't seen the complaint. The Herald-Mail faxed her a copy to see if she'd comment, but she couldn't be reached Wednesday.

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