Earlier last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving the question of whether a retail store violated a duty it owed to a customer when it failed to provide the customer with a staged shopping cart. Ultimately, the court concluded that the store’s duty was not defined by its internal operating procedures, and that the store had no obligation to provide the plaintiff with a staged shopping cart. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.
The case presents an important issue that frequently arises in Washington, D.C. premises liability cases. Specifically, whether a landowner has a duty to a visitor, and if so, the extent of that duty.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was an older man who required a cane and an oxygen tank. One day, the plaintiff’s wife dropped him off at the front of the store. The plaintiff went to obtain a shopping cart from the corral of carts near the store’s entrance. Because the shopping carts were stuck together, the plaintiff placed his cane and oxygen tank inside a cart as he tried to separate the carts. However, the plaintiff slipped and fell while trying to separate the carts, sustaining serious injuries as a result.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the store, citing the store’s own standard operating procedures which stated that a store greeter should stage three or four shopping carts for customers’ use. The plaintiff claimed that the store greeter violated a duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff by failing to have a staged shopping art available for his use.
The store presented the testimony of the greeter, who explained that he was helping another older man in an electric wheelchair at the time of the plaintiff’s fall. Prior to that, video evidence showed that the greeter had indeed staged several shopping carts; however, other customers took them before the plaintiff arrived. The store argued that the greeter’s primary job function was to greet customers, and that it was only when the greeter had free time that he should stage shopping carts.
The Court’s Decision
The court agreed with the store and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. First, the court explained that the store’s duty to its customers was not defined by its standard operating procedures, and instead was determined by common-law principles of negligence. Moreover, the court held that, even under the plaintiff’s proposed analysis, the plaintiff failed to prove that the store greeter was negligent. The court explained that the only evidence showed that the greeter was performing the functions of his job at the time the plaintiff fell. The court noted that the greeter had staged several carts, but other customers took them before the plaintiff reached the store’s entrance. The court also pointed out that the plaintiff never asked a store employee for assistance or a staged cart.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. The dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience assisting injury victims, and their families obtain the compensation they need and deserve from the parties responsible for their injuries. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Discusses the Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitor in Recent Personal Injury Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 16, 2018
The Expert Witness Standard in Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Cases, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, November 9, 2018