Did You Slip and Fall in a California Grocery Store?
When slip and fall injuries occur in grocery stores, the victims are often overwhelmed by the concept of going up against a big business and their attorneys in order to recover compensation. Today, we’ll look at the liability of the grocery store in a such a case and some examples of successful claims against large corporate grocery stores where slip and fall injuries have occurred in California.
The California Grocery Store Owes You a Duty of Care
Because a grocery store is open to the public, they owe everyone who enters the premises a duty of care to maintain a safe environment, remove hazards, and/or warn of hazards. If the employees of the grocery store fail to uphold this duty of care, and if an accident results, then the grocery store can be found negligent in the case and liable for damages. However, every case is different, and the details involved in proving negligence and liability may differ from one case to another.
How Slip and Fall Injuries Typically Occur on Grocery Store Property
While we are using the term, slip and fall, the same premises liability laws apply to trip and fall injuries. Thus, many of these injuries occur because of hazards in the entrances, exits, and aisles of grocery stores. There might be a damaged floor mat, boxes or other items in the walkway, or poor lighting which cause a person to trip and fall. When it comes to actual slip and fall injuries, these can be caused by wet floors from mopping, without hazard signs, or wet or greasy floors from spilt products.
Successful Slip and Fall Injury Claims Against US Grocery Stores
To illustrate how slip and fall claims against grocery stores can be successful, we’re going to look at a couple of examples from lawsuits against popular Costco grocery stores within the state of California.
To begin with, we’ll look at the 2011 case in which a woman slipped on food that had fallen on the floor from a free sample set up. The woman was able to prove and win her slip and fall claim because there was evidence that the hazard had been present for too long.
Costco argued that they conducted hourly inspections and maintenance of the floors, but the courts ruled that this was not adequate to prevent accidents. Further, the accident did cause injuries which resulted in monetary damages because the victim injured her tailbone and required medical treatment. Thus, all elements of negligence were present.
In another slip and fall claim against Costco, in 2012, a woman slipped on spilled liquid soap in the aisle of the grocery store. The accident resulted in injuries and compensable medical treatment damages because the woman’s kneecap was shattered in the incident. Negligence was proven through evidence that multiple employees had walked past the spill without addressing the hazard. This was a particularly successful claim in which the victim was able to recover over $400K in both economic and non-economic damages. The economic damages included her medical expenses and the non-economic damages included the value of compensation for her pain and suffering.
Theories Under Which Grocery Stores Can Be Held Liable for Negligence
There are different theories of negligence when it comes to grocery store liability in slip and fall or trip and fall premises liability claims. One is that the grocery store could have actually caused or created the hazard. They may have done so because an employee spilled a product or because the floors were mopped or waxed and no hazard signs were in place to warn customers.
Another is that the grocery store employees may not have created the hazard, but were aware of the hazard and did nothing to address that hazard. This was the case in the 2012 claim against Costco in which the employees walked past the spilled liquid soap and did not clean it or place any warnings to alert customers and avoid the accident. Sometimes, liability can be established because, even though the store didn’t know about the hazard, they should have. For instance, the store should have employees who inspect the aisles and floors regularly. If they do not, then they can be held liable for not taking steps to protect customers from potential hazards.
In cases where a spill has occurred, but the store did not have time to become aware of it, there may be no successful way to establish liability. If a customer drops a drink, for example, and moments later, someone slips on the mess, then the store can argue that they were taking the appropriate measures to inspect and address hazards, but in this case, they did not have the opportunity to do so.
There are also cases where a hazard is obvious enough that the customer should have seen it themselves and avoided it. In such cases, it can be very difficult to prove negligence on the part of the store because any other reasonable person would have seen and avoided the hazard. An example would include a display that is set up within the store and large and obvious enough that the customer should not have tripped over it. Another example can be found in cases where signs have been visibly placed around a hazard to warn customers that the hazard is there or where a portion of the store has been blocked off to prevent accidents where a hazard exists. If this is the case, then the store has done everything they should uphold their duty of care to the customers, and the customer is liable for their own injuries for failing to obey the hazard signs or for going into an area that has been blocked off.
A California Slip and Fall Injury Attorney Can Help You Prove Liability
While it can be intimidating to go up against the attorneys of a large chain of grocery stores, it is far from impossible to recover compensation from slip and fall injuries. Contact the Legal Help Law Group to schedule a free consultation to discuss your slip and fall claim against a grocery store.