Injuries From Retail Displays

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Most Common Personal Injury Law Issues:

What Duty Does a Store Have to Protect Its Customers from Injury?

The owner or operator of a store, shop, or other retail outlet which is open for public business, has a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition for the customers and others who are transacting business or shopping in the store.  Absent a rule to the contrary, the storekeeper does not owe a high or unusually stringent degree of care to the patron, but only the duty of exercising a reasonable, normal, or usual degree of care to keep the premises in a safe condition.  Any breach of duty which causes injuries may result in the store being liable for negligence.

What Kinds of Retail Displays Cause Injuries?

Although there are all types of retail displays, the ones which most commonly cause injury are those which:

Protrude Into Aisles

One common type of retail display is in the form of a display rack or structure which sometimes extends partially into an aisle or walkway of a store.  In several cases, a storekeeper has failed to exercise reasonable care for the safety of the patrons by permitting displayed merchandise to project into an aisle, resulting in customer injuries.

For example, a storekeeper was found negligent when he placed a small display table on the floor against, and partly under, a counter, but protruding out 10 inches into a 3 1/2 foot aisle.  The patron fell and was injured when she was pushed over the table by the crowd in the store.

Fall Onto Customers

Where it is reasonably foreseeable that particular displayed or stacked items might fall on a customer, or be knocked over or rearranged by other customers in a manner as to injure later customers by falling on them, a store may be found liable for the customers injuries.  Furthermore, evidence that displayed goods were knocked over when a customer pushing a shopping cart collided with a display, causing the items to fall on that customer or another customer, has given rise to liability of the storekeeper for failure to exercise reasonable care in the arrangement or maintenance of the display.

For example, where a 7 year-old girl who was told by the store manager of a self-service market to obtain for herself an item she wanted from a shelf which was over her head, and the child was injured by the fall of cans placed on the shelf as she was removing one of them, the store was held liable for the girl's injuries.

Result In Floor Debris

The operator of a supermarket who chooses to sell vegetables or other produce from open bins on a self-service basis must do what is reasonably necessary to protect customers from injury which the manner of operation is likely to generate.  Accordingly, where a patron produces evidence that produce is displayed in such a manner as to make its unintentional dropping onto the floor a reasonably probably occurrence, the storekeeper will be liable for injuries resulting from floor debris.

Additionally, a store may be held liable when the storekeeper could reasonably have anticipated that his handing out of food samples from displays to customers and children in the store would probably result in some of the food particles or displayed items being dropped onto the floor, making the floor slippery and dangerous for customer use.

For example, where tiles in a store were made wet when customers selected watermelons from a displayed "Ice Cold" tank, creating a continuous messy condition of which the storekeeper was aware, the storekeeper was held to be negligent for causing the hazardous floor condition.  The court noted that the floor was left for a regular period of time without mopping and that the hazard could have been eliminated by a different type of display.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

If you have been injured by a retail display, you should contact an attorney immediately.  Proving your case can be difficult, but a personal injury attorney can help explain the law and your rights so that you can recover damages for your injuries.

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Last Modified: 04-15-2015 10:03 AM PDT

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