Wal-Mart Videos Could Be Boon for Plaintiffs Lawyers

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Plaintiffs lawyers are expressing interest in 15,000 videos of Wal-Mart internal meetings being offered by a production company that recorded the company’s events for nearly 30 years.

After Wal-Mart abruptly dropped Flagler Productions in 2006, the video company almost collapsed, said co-owner Mary Lyn Villaneuva. Flagler managed to stay afloat after it began to charge researchers $250 an hour to access the videos in its archive, the Associated Press reports. Additional fees are charged for DVD copies of film clips.

One lawyer who has an interest in the videos is Brad Seligman, the lead lawyer in a class action suit that contends Wal-Mart discriminated against female employees, the AP story says. “What’s amazing about this is that this company has a video record going back many years showing senior management in at times fairly candid situations,” he said.

One video shows Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton telling the board of directors in the 1980s that too few women were in management. Another shows Chief Executive Officer H. Lee Scott Jr. discussing sexual harassment cases in 1999, the Wall Street Journal reports. ABC News has posted the Walton video clip along with one of a Wal-Mart lawyer calling unions “blood-sucking parasites.”

The Wall Street Journal’s front-page story, published yesterday, said plaintiffs attorney Diane Breneman hopes to use some Wal-Mart tapes as evidence in her lawsuit filed on behalf of a 12-year-old boy injured by a gasoline can she contends was unsafe. The can exploded when the boy poured gasoline onto wet wood he was trying to light on fire. Breneman has located tapes showing a Wal-Mart manager joking about the same brand of gasoline can and its ability to light wet wood. “I torched it. Boom! Fired right up,” he says.

Villaneuva says Wal-Mart has offered to buy the video library for $500,000 but the amount is too low. Company founder Mike Flagler maintains Wal-Mart has no rights to the videos because it did not sign a contract restricting their use.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Daphne Moore said the company is reviewing its legal options. “Needless to say, we did not pay Flagler Productions to tape internal meetings with this aftermarket in mind,” she said.

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