Big box stores have become popular shopping destinations, offering vast selections and competitive prices. However, these warehouse-type outlets are often thinly staffed, leaving customers to roam unsupervised through cavernous aisles of stock where they might face hazards that lead to slips and falls and other mishaps. The store’s owners and operators are responsible for keeping their premises safe and can be liable for damages if they fail to do so.
Some of the most commonly encountered dangerous conditions in big box stores are these:
- Spills and debris — Employees may be negligent in failing to clean up spilled liquids or debris promptly or to place signs or barriers to keep customers away.
- Lapses in maintenance — Newly mopped or waxed floors can create hazards, as can snow, ice, potholes and cracks on sidewalks or in parking lots.
- Sales floor obstructions — Stock pallets, boxes or equipment, including ropes and wires, might be left in aisles where people could trip on them.
- Unsecured merchandise — Improperly shelved or stacked boxes or others items can topple or fall.
- Inadequate lighting or security — Poorly lit areas can be sites of slips and falls and, in parking lots, also can make shoppers vulnerable to criminal attacks. The store may not have sufficient surveillance or monitoring systems.
- Equipment and machinery use —Store employees use forklifts, load lifters, wheeled ladders and other equipment to replenish stock. Accidents can result from operational failures or from not placing barriers to keep customers away from work areas.
With few staff members available to identify and address hazards promptly, dangerous conditions can persist for long periods of time, increasing the risk of accidents.
If you need to bring a claim against a big box store for injuries in a slip-and-fall incident, be aware that store owners and their insurance companies fight hard to avoid or reduce their outlay of monetary damages. Common defenses that stores raise include:
- The “open and obvious” defense — This means the hazard was so visible that the customer should have been aware of it and should not have gone near it.
- Lack of timely notice — The store management may claim they were not aware of the hazard or did not have sufficient time to remedy the situation before the accident occurred.
- Customer negligence — Stores may attempt to shift blame to the injured customer; for example, arguing that the customer’s moving of merchandise or another object led to the accident.
In New York, injured customers have the opportunity to obtain partial damages even if they share in the fault for the slip and fall incident. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you gather evidence and make a strong case for recovering compensation.
Goldberg, Sager & Associates in Brooklyn assists accident victims throughout New York City. Contact us online or call 718-514-9516 for a free initial consultation.