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Bag failure leads to wrongful-death lawsuit

By: Jim Johnson

August 29, 2013

Alleged failure of a plastic bag is at the center of a wrongful-death lawsuit against America's largest plastic bag maker and the country's largest retailer.

The lawsuit, which has been moved to U.S. District Court in Omaha, alleges a plastic bag made by Hilex Poly Co. LLC failed when carrying more than 100 ounces of product at a Wal-Mart store in Bellevue, Neb.

The bag, which contained two cans of La Choy Asian food each weighing 42 ounces and a bag of rice weighing 32 ounces, allegedly broke April 16, 2010, while Lynette M. Freis was transporting the merchandise to her car.

One of the cans fell on her right foot, fracturing the big toe and causing what the lawsuit calls a "deep laceration" on the toe. Freis then subsequently suffered from an infection, underwent surgical procedures to treat the injuries and infection to the toe, the lawsuit alleges.

The infection spread through her body "despite multiple rounds of antibiotics" and her condition continued to worsen. This "resulted in subsequent hospitalizations, and ultimately resulted in her death on March 12, 2011," the lawsuit alleges.

Hilex Poly, based in Hartsville, S.C., is named as a defendant in the case along with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Bunzl Distribution of St. Louis. Bunzl distributes plastic grocery bags in Wal-Mart stores, the lawsuit claims.

Gage R. Cobb, a lawyer representing plaintiff William S. Freis, husband of Lynette Freis, indicated via email he had no comment beyond the allegations in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks $656,716 to cover medical expenses as well as unspecified damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and funeral and burial expenses.

A Walmart spokesman said in a statement: "We extend our condolences to Ms. Freis' family for their loss. Customer safety is a top priority, and we take it seriously any time an injury is reported in one of our stores. Walmart is thoroughly investigating the plaintiff's allegations, and we will respond appropriately with the court."