From retail therapy to physical therapy: Slip-and-fall lawsuits against big-box stores

From retail therapy to physical therapy: Slip-and-fall lawsuits against big-box stores

Many consider grocery shopping therapeutic. In fact, there are studies that prove that “retail therapy” is more than just a fun catchphrase about burning cash on shopping sprees. Really, who needs a shrink when you can stroll along the biscuit and ice cream aisles in your neighborhood Target?

As with all forms of therapy, getting injured is not something one anticipates while “undergoing therapy.” And yet, injuries within big-box store premises are becoming increasingly common.

The dangerous detergent at a Safeway in Oregon

In 2016, then 84-year-old Christopher Armstrong-Stevenson was awarded $1.6 million after slipping and falling at a Safeway supermarket in Portland, Oregon. While walking in one of the aisles, Christopher slipped on detergent that a customer had spilled and that Safeway employees failed to clean up. The accident broke his femur, which affected his quality of life.

But Safeway claimed that Christopher slipped due to his old age, and not because someone at the store slicked the floors with soap. The store was willing to compensate Christopher with $132,000 — $82,000 for medical expenses and $50,000 for pain and suffering.

However, the jury thought he deserved at least a million more in punitive damages. This was largely due to Safeway’s failure to investigate the incident, intentionally destroying evidence, and refusing to take responsibility for making customer safety a priority.

The customer who missed the mark

There are over a thousand Target stores in America, which means thousands of slip-and-fall accidents waiting to happen! Like many big-box stores, Target has been at the crosshairs of customers who’ve suffered an injury within its premises. Some customers, however, miss the mark.

In 2012, Elvia Hernandez slipped and fell in a Miami Target store due to “liquid or other similar foreign substance on the floor of the main aisle”. She claimed that the medical expenses, as well as the pain and suffering she endured from the accident, entitled her to $120,000 in damages.

And because slip-and-fall cases are often complicated in nature, blame had to be assigned with mathematical precision. Target was initially willing to settle for $100,000, but later decided they’d keep that money instead and countersued.

The jury deemed Target only 10% responsible for the blame. It helped tremendously that the circumstances surrounding the spill were unknown, including who or what caused it, and how the substance spilled. Most crucially, Elvia wasn’t able to prove that a Target employee caused the spill, or that the spill was present long enough for an employee to clean it up.

The manhole at a Home Depot in Philadelphia

It’s not just inside stores where sticky and soapy substances sow fear and injury. Troubles await outside their premises, too.

While walking in the parking lot of the Roosevelt Boulevard Home Depot in Philadelphia, Heather Hartner smashed her shopping cart into a raised manhole that was covered with water. This caused her and her baby Kayla to trip and fall. Little Kayla had a few scratches, but Heather suffered serious injuries to her right knee, for which she requested not more than $50,000 in damages.

Heather and her baby were initially awarded $27,000, but she was unhappy with the paltry sum. After she appealed, the jury elected to assign 95% of the blame to Home Depot, and 5% to Heather. She eventually got $950,000 in damages. That, despite the store not pulling any disappearing surveillance video tricks.

Home Depot may not have concealed evidence, but they resorted to the tried-and-tested method of assigning blame to the injured customer...and failed.

If these cases are any proof, slip-and-fall accidents are rife with slippery slopes. If you’re shopping for personal injury lawyers in Seattle, the attorneys at Buckingham, LaGrandeur & Williams are top-shelf.