Arbitration award of $5.4 million challenged by employer of Garden Ridge store clerk murdered in 2020

Pam Smotherman’s sister is pushing for legislative change to protect convenience store workers across Texas.

GARDEN RIDGE, Texas — The family of a store clerk who was murdered in Garden Ridge almost four years ago, is faced with a new legal challenge after GPM Investments LLC, the sixth largest convenience store chain, filed a motion to vacate an arbitration award of $5.54 million. 

“They’re seeking to relitigate in the court system, something they didn’t want to do in the first place. We are seeking to enforce the final award that was issued to the Smotherman family,” said attorney Cody Dishon. “This is the only way to get companies to change their policies and procedures and make sure when you do have those policies and procedures on paper that they’re actually followed and implemented for the safety of other workers.” 

Pam Smotherman, 40, was working at the E-Z Mart in Garden Ridge on July 29, 2020, when around 3 a.m. a masked man entered the convenience store demanding money and lottery tickets at gunpoint.

Surveillance video released by the Garden Police Department showed the distressing moments where Smotherman is seen complying with the gunman’s demands. The footage, edited for public viewing, was cut at the moment the assailant shot Smotherman before the video resumed showing him running off. No arrests have been made, nor has law enforcement identified the killer. 

GPM Investments paid the Smotherman’s mother a little more than $100,000 in death and burial benefits. 

Smotherman’s mother initially filed a wrongful death lawsuit against GPM. The case transitioned to the arena of arbitration after GPM ‘s legal counsel referenced a provision with Smotherman’s employment agreement. 

Arbitration is an out-of-court process used to resolve disputes in expedited fashion through a third party known as an arbitrator.  

Harriett Rehman has been fighting for change and accountability with the hopes of bolstering awareness about the safety concerns of convenience store employees across Texas, while at the same time preserving the legacy of her sister, Pam Smotherman. 

Rehman stressed the litigation-turned-arbitration has never been about the money, it’s about the bigger picture of instilling corporate change to protect convenience store workers. 

“My sister tried for years to talk about change and her safety and her concerns and it just kept going on deaf ears,” Rehman said. “My mission was always prevention for the future. My mother had recently passed away so I’ve taken over that role.” 

Rehman’s focus is on the 2025 legislative session in Austin. She’s worked alongside state lawmakers to help propose legislation fixed on improving safety and security of convenience store work environments at night. 

“My proposed change is two employees between the hours of 10 and 6. If they can’t do that, then one employee but the doors have to remain locked at all times,” Rehman said. “They can only allow a patron in as long as they can get behind bullet proof glass and then buzz that patron in.” 

The arbitration hearing commenced in February and the decision was made on May 8. 

Court documents indicate the company’s challenge to the $5.54 arbitration award is rooted in allegations of the arbitrator demonstrating “evident impartiality” and overstepping his authority in rendering a resolution in favor of the Smotherman family. GPM argued the arbitrator failed to recognize testimony that noted robberies did not occur at the E-Z Mart where Smotherman was killed before July 29, 2020. 

“The store had many security problems prior to Pam’s death and the arbitrator found that the company is responsible for what happened to her,” Dishon said. 

The Smotherman family’s June 6 motion to confirm and enforce the final arbitration award states GPM’s arguments to vacate are “baseless.” 

The motion also asserts error by GPM in filing their motion to vacate the final award. GPM’s motion to vacate commenced on May 13 in Comal County 22nd District Court instead of federal court. 

“Under the arbitration agreement in question, “any lawsuits seeking to enforce or vacate an arbitration award shall be brought in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division,” states the Smotherman family’s June 6 motion. “Notably, GPM Investments, LLC drafted this arbitration agreement, cited this provision in state court filings, but completely ignored it by filing in the wrong state court. The Smotherman family has now filed in the appropriate forum to protect its rights.” 

GPM Investments did not respond to KENS 5’s request for comment in time for broadcast on Thursday. 

[embedded content]

Original News Source

Click here for Superior HOA Management