Nutria are like giant rats or small beavers, and at least one hangs out at Wal-Mart.
Store workers were used to seeing Norman the nutria, a beaver-like rodent with bright orange buck teeth. But Rebecca White said the furry, 18-pound critter jumped out from behind a Coke display last October, scaring her into pulling a cart full of bargains right over her own foot.
"The cart ran over her left foot, breaking two bones," White's lawyer, Anthony Fontana, said Thursday. Fontana said White, who suffers from panic attacks, had surgery on her foot in February.
He charged in a state court lawsuit that Wal-Mart employees knew Norman was on the loose in the store, but failed to warn customers. Nutria, indigenous to South America, were raised on farms for their pelts in the 1930s and '40s, but freed when they proved unprofitable. They proliferated in south Louisiana, where many residents call them nutria-rats or neutral-rats.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Michelle Bradford declined to comment on the suit, but said the company's goal is a "safe, clean and friendly shopping environment for customers."