The Risks of Shopping Carts and Your Legal Options If You Are Injured
People constantly encounter situations and devices that bring the potential for harm, which could spur a personal injury lawsuit if a person is seriously injured due to another’s negligence. In fact, certain items are used so often they become part of daily life, and people generally cease to associate them with danger. Shopping carts would seem to fit into this category, as people use them regularly during a variety of shopping experiences, but given their construction and ability for misuse by others, the risk for injury is always present. Most people will go their whole lives using these devices and never suffer an adverse event, but for an unfortunate few, an unexpected event or malfunction may occur that leaves them significantly injured. Children are especially vulnerable to injury from shopping carts because they could fall out if riding on the front if not secured, or fall off if hanging from the back, both common occurrences. A recent example of an injury from a shopping cart is described in a lawsuit filed by Pinellas County woman against a department store. The lawsuit claims that while attempting to move a cart from the sidewalk, it suddenly jerked and knocked her to the ground causing injury. Stores who provide shopping carts have a responsibility to keep them in a safe and working condition, and if this duty is not met, legal liability may follow. The basis for a store’s legal responsibility, as well as defenses commonly offered to escape this duty, will be explored below.
Proving Negligent Responsibility for an Injury
All property owners, and businesses open to the public in particular, must keep the premises in a safe condition free from hazards or other dangers. This obligation includes the duty to regularly inspect for hidden dangers, and unless a wheel or handle is missing or detached, most shopping cart issues would not be apparent. Further, once a problem is identified, it must be corrected within a reasonable time. Thus, leaving a shopping cart for customer use that is known to be malfunctioning or broken, or failing to adequately check whether shopping carts are in safe, working conditions could be viewed as negligent and expose the store to liability if an injury occurs. Importantly, a business can be held responsible for a dangerous condition it had no direct knowledge of if the hazard existed long enough that the business should have known about the condition through the exercise of reasonable care.
It is worth noting that liability for powered shopping carts is treated differently under Florida law. Essentially, a store that provides powered shopping carts to customers at no charge cannot be held liable if a customer operator injures another. The person operating the powered shopping cart can be sued for negligence, however.
While many personal injury cases settle before the parties reach the courtroom, when a lawsuit is filed it is best to assume that defendant will contest the claims through trial. In order to win a negligence case, the injured plaintiff must prove a legal duty was breached that resulted in harm. However, the defendant has the right to dispute such claims, which usually comes in the form of the following defenses:
- no dangerous condition existed;
- the owner did not have prior knowledge of the dangerous condition;
- reasonable steps were taken to correct the condition;
- the condition was open and obvious, and thus, avoidable;
- the injury occurred in an area off-limits to customers; and
- the customer was negligent and assumed the risk of injury.
No one should have to experience an injury because someone else was negligent, and if you find yourself in this tragic situation, talk to a personal injury attorney about taking legal action. Injured parties have only four years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit, and valuable evidence can be lost the longer you wait to pursue legal remedies. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber Del Prado handles a variety of personal injury cases, and is available to evaluate your injury. Contact us today for a free consultation.