One of the most common places that slip and falls occur nationwide is in our grocery stores and supermarkets, and it’s not hard to see why. Grocery stores are some of the most densely populated and frequently visited stores. Whether we are young or old, in good health or ill health, maneuvering the long aisles and tall shelves of the neighborhood supermarket are something most of us have to do. And those tall shelves are stacked to the brim with an infinite number of products that, when spilled or dropped by any one of the hundreds and even thousands of children and adults that handle those products every day, can cause another shopper to slip and fall to the ground. We have all fallen at one time or another, but even the most sturdy person can suffer devastating injuries if their head violently strikes the ground, and many other people suffer broken bones and all other types of costly and painful injuries. Which raises, the question: who is liable for a fall at the supermarket?
Who Caused the Spill or Other Risk?
The first question is to look at what actually caused your fall. If you fell due to a reason that had nothing to do with any external factor within the store itself – perhaps you had a seizure or fainted after a traumatic phone call from a loved one – then there may be no liability. But most falls in supermarkets are due to a slippery floor surface, for example a recently mopped area for which there was not adequate signage or a spilled jug of vegetable oil.
You will want to determine what party actually caused the dangerous condition. Was it an employee or another customer? If that individual carelessly caused the condition and it was foreseeable that someone would be injured as a result, then that individual will be liable for your injuries. If that individual was an employee of the store, then the store would be vicariously liable as well. But if the individual was not an employee, or if it is unclear who caused the condition, then we look to the response of the supermarket via its employees.
What Did the Supermarket Employees Do in Response to the Risk?
A grocery store has a duty to its customers to take reasonable steps to inspect its property for risks such as spills and other dangerous conditions and either take steps to remedy the risky situation or warn the customers, such as by cordoning off an area or putting up clearly marked warning signs.
When a spill was caused by another customer or it was not clear who caused it, then the question will become whether the store, through its employees, took reasonable steps to remedy the situation. If a shopper causes a spill, and ten seconds later another shopper slips, then the store may not have had a reasonable opportunity to clean up the spill, but if, say, an hour passed and no employee noticed the spill (or an employee noticed the spill and failed to take action), then the store may well be presumed to have breached its duty to the injured customer and will be liable for the customer’s injuries.
Did You Notice the Risky Condition?
Another question to ask is whether the injured shopper noticed the risky condition and proceeded to “assume the risk” of injury by walking in the dangerous area. For example, if a shopper sees a huge puddle of melting ice cream in front of a freezer but decides to risk walking through the ice cream to get to the freezer, the store may try to eliminate or reduce liability by arguing that the shopper assumed the risk or was contributorily negligent in doing so.
An experienced personal injury attorney can assess your specific supermarket fall to determine your best strategies for pursuing recovery.
Experienced Southern California Attorneys In Your Personal Injury Matter
The attorneys at The Kaufman Law Firm has consistently won six- and seven-figure verdicts and settlements on behalf of injured victims across Southern California. They will work with you from the moment you call to investigate your matter and build your best possible case for recovery. Contact The Kaufman Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.