Suing for Injuries Due to Falling Merchandise
New York premises liability law recognizes the duty of merchants to exercise reasonable care to keep their premises reasonably safe for customers. We are all accustomed to seeing bright yellow safety cones placed over spills in aisles as an immediate warning, and hearing the cry over the P.A. system for a “clean-up on aisle five!” But when is the last time you heard a request to “restock precariously stacked merchandise on aisle two”? Yet every year, a multitude of customers are struck and injured by falling merchandise at retail stores, especially warehouse outlets. If you suffered such an injury, you might wonder about your legal rights and what you might have to prove to obtain compensation.
Merchants are required to act reasonably with regard to customer safety
Courts have applied the reasonable person standard to maintaining merchandise on stores shelves and have recognized a duty on the part of the retailer to protect customers from unwarranted risk. In general, courts have regarded the practice of stacking merchandise on a shelf above the average person’s eye level as creating an unwarranted risk that contributes to the danger of merchandise falling. Courts have required stores to take affirmative steps such as using devices to stabilize merchandise and checking shelves periodically to restock merchandise safely after customers have handled it. Providing customers with access to step boxes or stepladders and having staff on hand to assist with merchandise on high shelves are considered reasonable steps to reduce risk.
But stores are not strictly liable for any piece of merchandise that falls and injures a customer. A customer has a responsibility to act prudently. A customer who cannot reach an item can’t very well blame the store when he attempts to jump and grab the item from the shelf and causes an avalanche. Retailers also cannot be expected to restock every item after a customer has handled it and replaced it in a precarious position.
Falling merchandise cases, like slip and fall accidents, rely on numerous facts that in their totality prove liability. To obtain compensation for your injuries, you should consult an experienced attorney as soon after the accident as possible. A compassionate and skilled injury lawyer at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia can evaluate your case for free.