February 26, 2015

Shopper at Store Compensated for Back, Knee and Shoulder Injuries Suffered in Fall

By Jonathan Damashek

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A recent premises liability case successfully handled by Jordan D. Hecht, a partner at Hecht, Kleeger and Damashek, produced a multi-million-dollar verdict for our client and underscores the responsibility that New York businesses have for the safety of their customers.

In this case, a licensed nurse shopping at a Home Depot in Brooklyn sustained serious injuries when she fell over a cardboard box left sitting in a store aisle. As a result of the accident, the woman suffered a torn rotator cuff in her left shoulder, a torn meniscus in her right knee and injuries to her neck that required spinal fusion surgery.

We filed a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of the woman, alleging that a Home Depot employee had placed the box in the aisle. Home Depot denied any involvement in the accident and blamed the plaintiff for not looking where she was going.

Under premises liability law, the owners of a store like Home Depot have a legal responsibility to do all that is reasonable to ensure the safety of their customers. This includes removing, as well as not purposely causing, potential hazards, such as merchandise or debris lying in aisles where it may cause a customer to trip, fall and be injured.

Store managers and employees, acting on behalf of owners, are allowed a reasonable time to remove temporary hazards like fallen merchandise or a liquid spill. They should post warnings about a hazard that cannot be immediately removed or erect barriers between shoppers and the potentially dangerous area.

Any property owner bears responsibility for a visitor’s safety, including a homeowner who might have icy sidewalks or a hole in their yard that would constitute a hazard. But there is a higher burden on a retail business like Home Depot, which purposely solicits visitors to walk the aisles of its stores while looking at a wide variety of merchandise for sale. Home Depot should have recognized that a box placed in an aisle where customers walk posted a tripping hazard, and it should have been removed.

Our client suffered multiple, serious injuries that required surgery and time away from work.

A New York jury weighed the evidence we presented about the accident and returned a verdict finding Home Depot 100 percent at fault for this preventable accident. The jury awarded our client $3,875,000 in damages.

The verdict will ensure the woman is not financially damaged by an accident that a jury concluded was not her fault.

If you have fallen and been seriously injured at a store or another place of business or a private home in an accident that was not your fault, you may be able to obtain compensation for you injuries. In the New York City metropolitan area, we are available to discuss your legal options with you in a free consultation.