Each year, thousands of people are injured in grocery stores. With millions of Americans shopping each day, injuries are bound to occur. In some situations, grocery stores are liable for injuries to customers.
However, in situations where a dangerous condition is so obvious that any reasonable person would avoid the condition, then it is not likely a grocery store would be held liable for a customer who was injured by such condition.
What Duties Does a Grocery Store Owner Have?
Retail store owners, including grocery store owners, have a reasonable duty of care to people who enter their premises. For instance, if a container of canola oil broke on the floor, the store must take all reasonable steps to clean it up, put up slip and fall signs until it is safe, and any other necessary steps to ensure the safety of others. In this situation, if no precautions were taken and someone was injured, the grocery store owner may be held liable for negligence.
Many grocery store hazards are obvious, such as cases of produce on the floor while an employee is restocking the shelves. For hazards that are hidden, it is the store’s responsibility to take care to warn visitors of the hazards and take the necessary steps to prevent injury.
What is the Duty to Maintain Safe Premises?
The duty to maintain a safe premises means that business owners must keep their property safe for the public to enter. If a grocery store owner does not take the steps necessary to keep their customers out of harm’s way, then they open themselves up to lawsuits.
If a plaintiff can show that an unsafe condition existed in a grocery store, and the injury he or she sustained as a result of this unsafe condition, then the store owner may be held liable.
What Factors Help Show the Store was Negligent?
Below are a few factors that may contribute to a grocery store owner’s negligence:
- The store owner knew about the dangerous condition, or should have known the condition existed.
- The dangerous condition occurred repeatedly.
- Employees neglected to clean-up or fix the hazard after it occurred, or after they should have known it occurred.
- The clean-up of the hazard was inadequate, the hazard lasted for a long time, or there was a significant amount of time between the creation of the hazard and the accident.
How Can I Hold a Grocery Store Liable?
If you were injured in a grocery store, you may be able to sue for compensatory damages. For instance, if you can show that the grocery store owner created the dangerous condition which caused your injury, or if they knew about a dangerous condition and failed to take reasonable care to correct the hazard, they may be held liable.
It is important to show that the store owner knew about the hazard, or should have known that it existed. For instance, going back to the canola oil spill, if the owner knew it happened and failed to fix the problem, a successful lawsuit for the plaintiff who slipped and fell on the oil, is likely.
What Defense Does the Store Have?
Grocery stores have some protections against liability, especially to safeguard against frivolous lawsuits. The following are defenses that a grocery store may raise when facing a negligence lawsuit:
- A dangerous condition did not exist on the property at the time of the accident.
- The store did not know about the hazard, and/or they could not have known about the dangerous condition.
- All reasonable steps were taken to protect customers from injury.
- The hazardous condition was obvious to any reasonable person, and as such, everyone should know to avoid it.
- The condition itself did not injure the customer.
- The customer was in an area they were not allowed.
- The customer assumed the risk of injury by being on the premises, or they were negligent in their actions.
- Comparative negligence or contributory negligence.
- Statute of limitations violation.
Should I Contact a Lawyer If I Have Been Injured at a Grocery Store?
If you have been injured at a grocery store, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. A local personal injury lawyer will be able to assess your case and provide further guidance on your next steps. If you wish to pursue your claim, your attorney will also be able to represent your best interests in court.