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Premises liability and accidents in retail stores

It started with a stroll through the flower department at a local Lowe's. The customer was walking past the palm tree area when the pleasant stroll became a nightmare. The customer slipped in a puddle of water and fell abruptly onto the concrete floor. The accident resulted in more than just a bruised ego or sore tailbone. The injuries were so severe that the victim permanently lost her sense of taste and smell.

Slips and falls in parking lots, sidewalks and store aisles can cause a great deal of harm and injury. Back injuries, traumatic brain injuries and broken bones are common results of accidents in retail stores. This can lead to significant medical bills and may cause the injured person to miss work. That is why, in New Jersey, property owners who fail to keep their premises reasonably safe for passersby and consumers are legally liable for the resulting injuries.

What are my legal rights in premises liability cases?

Retail stores, and other businesses for that matter, are required to provide a safe environment for their patrons. If there is a danger, the danger should be clearly labeled so that anyone in the store can avoid it. In the example above, which was the basis of a recent case, Lowe's claimed that the dangerous slippery floor was clearly labeled. The store argued that a caution cone was placed in the puddle of water on which the shopper slipped.

The victim agrees that the cone was in the water, but counters that it was obstructed by a table filled with plants. The legal team for the victim made a powerful point during the 11 day trial, successfully arguing that an obstruction can negate a warning when the attorney pulled a similar warning cone out from near the witness stand during his closing statement. The cone, he stated, was there the entire time. The cone was obstructed; much like the one used in the Lowe's at the time of the slip-and-fall injury. Like the cone at Lowe's, this one also failed to warn potential victims of any danger that lay ahead.

Premises liability cases can lead to remedies for victims

Ultimately, the court found in favor of the victim. Jurors in the case awarded the victim over $16.4 million dollars in damages. The award is intended to serve two purposes: providing money to the victim to help cover the costs associated with the injury and punish the defendant for failing to provide a safe environment for its customers. The second purpose is referred to as a punitive award. In addition to serving as a type of punishment, it is also intended to deter other retailers from repeating the same mistakes.

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