Rat bite traumatized customer at Dollar Tree store, suit alleges

Posted: August 13, 2010

Bernard King didn't smell a rat when he went into the Dollar Tree store at the Penrose Plaza, in Southwest Philadelphia, in March - but he sure felt one.

King was shopping there for ribbon to wrap his granddaughter's birthday present when he put his hand in an open ribbon box on a shelf and a rat latched onto his right index finger, according to a lawsuit filed this week in federal court.

"Not only did he sustain a nasty bite, but the rat didn't disengage right away. He had to shake it off," said King's attorney, Christian C. Thompson.

A manager and an assistant came over to investigate King's screams at the "scene of the attack," and three more rats jumped out at the assistant when he tried to move another ribbon box on the shelf, the lawsuit says.

The assistant ran behind his manager. The three then saw that at least one nest of rats was living in the open box of ribbons, according to the suit.

King, 50, of Sharon Hill, Delaware County, was treated for his physical wounds but claims he lost the full use of his finger and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It's an understandable consequence of this kind of thing," Thompson said. "A reasonable person would have grotesque memories of this event."

The suit claims that the Dollar Tree was negligent in allowing the rat nest to grow on the shelf, and that the manager refused to give a copy of the incident report to King and failed to report the incident to the appropriate city and state health agencies.

Thompson said that he has an independent witness to corroborate the rat attack.

When he tried to settle the matter out of court, Thompson said, Dollar Tree representatives questioned his client's veracity and the seriousness of the incident.

Calls seeking comment from Dollar Tree management were not returned yesterday.

In his 30 years of practicing law, Thompson said, he's never encountered a similar case. "This touches sort of a primordial fear," he said. "I hope I never have another case like this again."

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