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Walgreens Pays $75,000 for Chicago Family’s Lost VHS Tapes

A Cook County appointed commercial arbitrator has awarded Corboy & Demetrio clients, Jamie and David Schwartz, $75,000 for the loss of 28 VHS tapes the couple took to Walgreens for conversion to DVD.

Jamie Schwartz took her family’s VHS tapes for conversion to DVD format to the Walgreens at 2317 N. Clark St. in Chicago on Sept. 26, 2014. Walgreens advertised this conversion would preserve irreplaceable memories forever. The store was moving to 2500 N. Clark in a couple of weeks. It admitted that all the tapes were destroyed during the move. Evidence showed that proper identification and tracking procedures for packaging were not followed by the store’s employee when Jamie brought in the tapes.

Walgreens searched for the tapes for weeks. They were never found.

Walgreens then offered the replacement value of a blank tape – about $9 each or $252.00 for all the tapes, according to the liability disclaimer that was printed on the back side of the claim check. Walgreens also contended that Jamie Schwartz knew of the limiting terms by clicking the computer kiosk screen, which limited the value for these irreplaceable memories to the cost of a blank tape. However, evidence at the arbitration showed that the Walgreens employee who processed the order clicked the computer kiosk screen and not Mrs. Schwartz.

“Walgreens advertised that its VHS to DVD conversion program would preserve irreplaceable memories forever yet after it negligently destroyed 30 years of memories, it wanted to reimburse the Schwartz family a couple of hundred bucks,” said Francis Patrick Murphy, a partner at Corboy & Demetrio. “This suit was about the principle that if a corporation accepts your product in good condition and it destroys it, it cannot limit the value of the product without telling the customer up front about the conditions. Hiding the conditions on the back of the claim check is unacceptable,” concluded Murphy. “If Walgreens had told Jamie it would pay only the replacement value of a blank tape if it negligently destroyed the tapes, do you think she would have gone through with the deal? Of course not!” Murphy added.

Walgreens claimed it was only responsible for the replacement cost of a blank tape and not the actual value of the content of the tapes including sentimental damages suffered by the Schwartz family. The arbitrator disagreed. The size of the award was the highest amount the arbitrator could award.

“No amount of money will replace 30 years of memories,” Murphy stated. “But if this suit prevents another family from losing their family treasures, then Jamie and David have accomplished what they wanted to do,” Murphy added.

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