Holiday Shopping May Give Rise to Premises Liability Claims

While it’s true an increasing number of people are carrying out their holiday shopping online, there are still scores of people who venture out to the brick-and-motor stores to purchase their goods.

On Black Friday 2014, retailers reported holiday shopping at physical stores topped $50.9 billion. That was down about 11 percent from $57.4 billion a year ago, but it’s still significant.

When stores invite people onto their property to shop and engage in transactions, they also owe a responsibility to ensure those guests are safe. In legal terms, these patrons are referred to as “business invitees,” and stores owe them the highest degree of care in ensuring the property is safe and free of any defects or dangers not blatantly obvious to those entering.

Unfortunately, many retailers overlook basic safety protocol over the holidays, as they are overwhelmed with the increased volume. Our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers know there are a host of dangers about which shoppers may not even be aware as they enter the store.

Some of the most common dangers include:
–Transitory foreign substances that may cause them to slip-and-fall or uneven flooring that causes them to trip-and-fall;
–Danger of high-stacked merchandise falling down on top of them;
–Danger of a robbery or other assault in a poorly-lit parking lot or garage.

These are all lumped into a category of personal injury law known as “premises liability.” It means the property owner or entity having control of the property can be held responsible when the site is not safe for those who enter. People who are injured while shopping should consider their legal options.

Statutes regarding slip-and-fall in Florida require plaintiffs to prove the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the slippery substance on the floor and failed to take reasonable action to remedy it or warn patrons of the danger. This assumes also the slick surface was not openly obvious to the patron, in which case he or she would have a duty to take reasonable evasive action to avoid injury to themselves.

With regard to falling merchandise, this is a common problem when items are stacked too high (“skyshelving”) or stocked improperly or in a way that does not account for another shopper moving objects. Injuries resulting from these types of incidents can be serious, up to and including traumatic brain injury. In most cases, store owners are liable to pay damages in these instances.

Finally, when a criminal attack occurs on a store property, you may be entitled to collect damages under premises liability law. Of course, it may not have been the store’s intention for you to be robbed or attacked. However, such instances are known to be common, especially when there is an increased volume of people hurrying back and forth with cash and expensive merchandise. That means stores have a responsibility to ensure they have hired enough security, have posted security cameras and that parking areas are well-lit. Where this is not the case – especially when there have been a spate of similar crimes at the same location – compensation may be awarded to the victim by the store and/or its insurer.

If you are injured while shopping this holiday season, contact our offices today.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
Black Friday mayhem: Woman injured by falling TV and three arrested during retail chaos, Nov. 28, 2014, By Nathan Rao,
More Blog Entries:
Bufkin v. Felipe’s – Pedestrian Injury Claim Countered by Open Obvious Doctrine, Oct. 20, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Premises Liability Lawyer Blog

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