Michael Thompson of
La Grande is homebound and frustrated.

Thompson, who relies on a Quantum 3 power wheelchair to get from place to place, says that on July 11 his wheelchair was damaged by an automatic door at the Walmart Supercenter in Island City. The incident occurred as he was coming into the store between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. at its grocery section entrance.

The automatic door hit his wheelchair and pressed against it for seven to 10 seconds, damaging the chair’s control panel, he said. Thompson was not injured in the incident, but he said that since then using his wheelchair has been dicey. Thompson explained that sometimes the chair’s hydraulic system will go out, lowering it to the ground to the point that he cannot operate it.

To get the hydraulic system functioning to the point he can operate it again, Thompson said, he has to maneuver his wheelchair’s joystick for two to three minutes.

This can put Thompson in a vulnerable situation when he is in areas where there is motor vehicle traffic.

He noted that one time his wheelchair’s hydraulics went out when he was near the entrance of a busy gas station on Island Avenue. Thompson said he has twice almost been hit by vehicles because of the wheelchair’s malfunctioning.

“I don’t feel safe in it,” he said.

Thompson had the wheelchair examined by Norco, the firm he purchased it from in January. Norco indicated, in a statement submitted to Thompson, that it would cost $1,110 to repair his chair, which is not insured. Thompson has asked Walmart to pay for the repair cost but has been unsuccessful.

Thompson said his request for money to cover the repairs was sent to a firm that handles claims against Walmart, Claims Management Inc. Thompson received an email on Sept. 30 from Claims Management Inc., which he provided to The Observer. It reads, in part:

“We had an opportunity to review your file. We have determined that Walmart Stores, Inc. is not responsible for your damages. Upon reviewing the evidence we found that there was no negligence on the store’s behalf. The door was closing and you continued to enter without any caution to the closing door.”

Thompson, 60, does not agree with this assessment. He said he rode up to the automatic door and waited for the door to open after its sensor detected him. The door then opened and he started moving, he said, but before he could get inside the door closed on his wheelchair.

The Observer called Claims Management Inc. multiple times for comment, but the calls were not returned.

The Observer also called the Island City Walmart for comment and was directed to its corporate media relations office. A request was sent to the media relations office for a response on Aug. 30. The media relations office sent an email to The Observer the same day indicating it had received the request, but beyond that has not yet responded.

Thompson, who suffers from a lung condition and a serious back problem, rarely leaves his apartment now because it is not safe to use his wheelchair.

“I’m very limited in what I can do,” he said.

Thompson said his hope is quite simple.

“All I want is for Walmart to step up and fix the wheelchair,” he said.