Woman Sues Walmart for Damaged Hearing

A woman’s cochlear implants shocked her and made an earsplitting noise when they were damaged by a Wal-Mart theft-alarm system, reports Courthouse News. Yvette Garces had one of the implants surgically replaced and is scheduled to have the other replaced in March, according to a lawsuit she filed last week in Federal Court.

Cochlear implants are installed in a patient’s inner ear and connect to an external transmitter behind their ear. Unlike hearing aids, they don’t amplify sounds. Instead they convert them to electric signals that are sent through the auditory nerve to the brain.

Garces and her husband sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Cochlear Americas and Tyco Integrated Security on Feb. 12, two days before the two-year statute of limitations deadline on their claims. Garces says her hearing and health were damaged by a visit to a Wal-Mart store in Quakertown, PA., on Feb. 14, 2014.

“Yvette Garces passed through the Sensormatic Anti-Theft pedestal system installed at the entrance to the store and suffered severe electrical shock and head pain and experienced a loud noise, after which the processors to plaintiff’s implants stopped functioning,” the 25-page complaint states.

Dizzy and disoriented, Garces says she lost all hearing in her right implant and still could not hear after she changed its battery. “Plaintiff placed the left side processor on her right hearing attachment and was instantly in pain as she received an intense, unintelligible sound,” the lawsuit states.

The couple spoke to a Wal-Mart employee, who told them the Tyco-manufactured alarm system had been malfunctioning. During that conversation, the “alarm went off several times for no apparent reason” as people entered the store, Garces claims.

Garces went to see her audiologist a few days later at NYU Medical Center, and learned the right processor was damaged and the left malfunctioning. The test results marked the first time in more than 12 years that Garces’ doctor found her hearing had worsened, Garces says.

Garces says the manufacturer Cochlear America replaced the right processor, but she could “hear no sound” after she attached it to the implant. She says she is also seeing specialists for the dizziness that has persisted since the incident.

Garces wants punitive damages for negligence and product liability. Her husband sued for loss of consortium, claiming her hearing loss has harmed their relationship.

Wal-Mart, Cochlear America and Tyco Integrated Security did not respond to requests for comment made Wednesday. Cochlear implants cost up to $100,000 when rehab costs are factored in, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.