Woman sues Wal-Mart over 'Norman the nutria'

Woman sues Wal-Mart over 'Norman the nutria'
The orange teeth say it all: steer clear.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A Louisiana woman is suing a Wal-Mart store over what she claims was a much-too-close encounter of the furry kind.

Rebecca White says in her lawsuit that employees at a Wal-Mart in Abbeville let a rat-tailed rodent known as a nutria run loose and scare her. She says that not only did employees know it was in their store, but gave it a pet name, Norman, and failed to warn shoppers.

White says she was pushing a full shopping cart down an aisle in October when the nutria ran out from behind a rack. She says she pulled the cart backward in a panicked attempt to protect herself and hurt her back and foot.

The local store referred all questions about Norman to the Bentonville, Ark.-headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's largest retailer.

A spokeswoman there said the company has not seen the nutria lawsuit but is investigating. The parish nuisance animal control officer said no one has called him about the animal.

Nutria have bright orange buck teeth and can weigh up to 18 pounds. Would-be fur farmers in 22 states imported them in large numbers in the 1930s and '40s, then released them when they proved unprofitable. They proliferated in south Louisiana.

White wants compensation for pain, suffering, mental anguish, fear, disabling injuries, and medical expenses. Her attorney says the surgery bills aren't in yet, but other medical bills totaled nearly $2,000.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)