Linda Ellzey watched last Friday as her sister, Patricia VanLester, was trampled by other shoppers at a Wal-Mart in Orange City.
"She got pushed down, and they walked over her like a herd of elephants," Ellzey said. "I told them, 'Stop stepping on my sister! She's on the ground!'"
The incident received worldwide publicity, but it turns out that VanLester is a former Wal-Mart worker who's filed 16 injury claims against her former employer and other businesses.
An investigation by CBS television affiliate WKMG in Orlando revealed that VanLester had received thousands of dollars in settlements and workman's compensation since 1987.
WKMG's investigation was based on interviews with Wal-Mart officials and a review of court files and state records. WKMG reported that VanLester's sister, Linda Ellzey, had also filed a previous injury claim against Wal-Mart, using VanLester as a witness.
VanLester, 41, was first in line to grab a $29 DVD player at 6 a.m. Nov. 28 when she was knocked to the ground by a frenzy of shoppers. She spent the weekend in the hospital, and her sister, Linda Ellzey, said she suffered a seizure and other injuries caused by the stampede of shoppers.
"We're going to investigate this claim as thoroughly as we have investigated the other 10 claims that this woman and her sister have brought against us in the past," said Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman.
Fogleman said he had no details about the past settlements between VanLester and Wal-Mart. A woman who answered the phone at VanLester's house Thursday night declined comment.
VanLester's attorney, David L. Sweat, told the television station his client has not filed a formal injury claim against Wal-Mart regarding last week's incident.
VanLester's history of previous claims date back to at least 1987, when she won an undisclosed cash settlement after allegedly slipping and falling at a Volusia County bowling alley.
She also collected more than $1,800 in worker's compensation claims for slip-and-fall incidents at a Publix supermarket and another Wal-Mart store in 1995 and 1996, respectively.
She claimed that she slipped on a puddle of hand lotion in 1991 while shopping at an Orange City Walgreen's pharmacy, causing "permanent injury, disability, disfigurement (and) mental anguish." The case was thrown out after a 10-minute court hearing.