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Louisiana woman sues Wal-Mart over incident with Norman the nutria

May 7, 2009 |  4:17 pm

Nutria Wal-Mart shopper Rebecca White was less than amused by the presence of a large rodent in the ubiquitous chain store's Abbeville, La., store. 

White was so nonplussed, in fact, that she filed suit against the corporate monolith over an injury she says she incurred as a result of the animal, a nutria.  (That's a nutria at right, although not the one cited by White in her lawsuit.)  From the Associated Press:

According to the lawsuit, [White] had a full shopping cart when "suddenly and without warning a large wild nutria came from behind the Coke rack and ran straight towards" her on Oct. 11.

Fearing for her safety, she "pulled her shopping cart towards her to protect her from the large vicious looking rat," the suit continued.

The cart ran over her left foot, breaking two bones, the Whites' lawyer, Anthony Fontana, said Thursday. He said she underwent surgery in late February for broken bones and damaged nerves.

Wal-Mart workers "came running" in October but made light of the incident, "telling petitioner that they could see that she had an encounter with 'Norman,' a name the employees had given to the rat," the lawsuit alleged.

Nutrias, also called coypu, are semiaquatic rodents that resemble either large rats or small beavers, depending on your point of view.  (In the Netherlands they're called beverrat -- literally, "beaver rat.")  Nutrias are native to South America but were introduced elsewhere as a result of the fur trade.  They can grow to weigh about 20 pounds.

A representative at Wal-Mart's corporate office told the AP that the company was not aware of the nutria lawsuit but was investigating.  White's lawsuit asks for compensation for "pain, suffering, mental anguish, fear, disabling injuries and medical expenses." Fontana says his client suffers from panic attacks and had to be taken to a hospital in an ambulance when she passed out as a result of the incident.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: David Rae Morris / FTT

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