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Wal-Mart and Home Depot Premises & Product Liability

Monday, August 21st, 2017 By

Claims against large corporate entities arise for many reasons, but mainly because underpaid and overworked staff tend to be apathetic about maintaining safe conditions. Lawsuits range from slip and fall cases to product liability. There are many opportunities to get hurt in these stores but that does not mean you should avoid pursuing compensation.

Main Takeaways:

  • Walmart and Home Deport premises liability cases are frequently referred to as slip and fall claims.
  • Premises liability also applies in cases involving unsecured merchandise (such as a customer suffering an impact from a falling item).
  • Defective products can also cause injury. This often arises because they fail to respond to a recall or maintain a product in stock despite complaints.
  • Proving liability can be difficult, but there are theories of liability that involve showing that store owners were negligent.

Lawsuits Against Walmart & Home Depot

sign-slippery-wet-caution The most common cases Walmart and Home Depot involve premises liability. These are frequently referred to as “slip and fall” claims since most of them involve a customer falling after walking over a wet floor or tripping over damaged terrain. Falls are especially devastating with older customers and damages can be high.

Premises liability also applies in cases involving unsecured merchandise. Home Depot with its high shelves and frequent unsettling is especially vulnerable. Customers may suffer an impact from a falling item. Head injuries and soft tissue pain are the usual results.

While considerably less common, distributors can be held liable for defective products that cause injury. This often arises because they fail to respond to a recall or maintain a product in stock despite complaints. These cases do not occur often because most retailers, including Home Depot and Walmart, do not want to deal with the bad press associated with dangerous products.

Notable Commercial Lawsuits and Settlements

Both Home Depot and Walmart lost claims arising from product liability. While these results are not typical, they show how courts assess these claims. The most notable cases against these entities include:

  • Averyt v. Walmart: Considered the largest verdict in a slip and fall case, this case arose out of Holly Averyt slipping and falling on an ice and grease spot on December 13, 2007 at the Greeley, CO location. Her injuries required four surgeries and she was no longer able to work as a truck driver. A jury awarded her $15 million and the State Supreme Court upheld that verdict.
  • Lanier v. Walmart: This landmark case from Kentucky changed how premises liability cases are handled. Previously, it was up to the plaintiff to show that the store knew or should have known about a dangerous condition and then addressed it. With this case, the store needed to prove that it took reasonable steps to assure safety. When Walmart could not accomplish that, it faced damages.
  • Hartner v. Home Depot: The Pennsylvania case resulted in a $950,000 award to a woman who injured her knee when a manhole cover was obscured by water. While the case dates back to 2002 and damages went into a re-determination procedure, this is considered an example of the effects of premises liability.
  • Baynes v. Home Depot: Known as the the “deleted evidence case”, the plaintiff sued after slipping on a wet floor. When she requested surveillance video of the area, Home Depot indicated that it had been deleted. The court construed the missing evidence against Home Depot and ordered $44,383.61 in damages payable to the plaintiff.

Proving Liability and Negligence Against Retailers

Even with these successful verdicts, it is difficult to prove liability against big box stores. Store management and employees may receive the benefit of the doubt, especially if no one alerted them to the dangerous condition.

Theories of liability involve showing that store owners were negligent in any of the following ways:

  • Creating the unsafe condition: Using an unsafe floor wax or allowing pipes to leak water on the floor creates unsafe conditions that will likely injure customers.
  • Failure to remedy dangers: If a store owner is continuously advised of wet floors or an icy spot at their front door but fails to address the condition, they may be responsible for damages that arise from injuries resulting from those conditions.
  • Lack of monitoring: If it is known if, for example, drinks spill frequently in one area and the store fails to monitor and remedy these issues, it may be held liable for not managing dangerous conditions.
  • No warning: It is not likely a customer will recover if a display or condition is obvious. If they walk into a hole despite barriers or run into a large conspicuous sign, the store can successfully argue that the customer did not exercise reasonable caution. However, if a hole is obscured by a tarp or it is impossible for customers to notice loose merchandise overhead, then no amount of reasonable caution will prevent these injuries.

If you are injured because a Walmart or Home Depot location was negligent, you need to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney at DuBoff & Associates. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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