Premises Liability During the Holidays

5219478547_685ca080f3This year, the Black Friday failed to live up to the usual hype that surrounds the shopping “holiday.” The New York Times reported that sales through the Black Friday weekend holiday dropped 11% from the numbers recorded in 2013. The Times also estimated that 5.2% fewer people actually hit the shops, whether online or in person this year as well.

Stores and Premises Liability

Fewer people physically visiting stores could be due to a number of things: improved online shopping experiences, economic concerns or the fear of injury. Aggressive behavior resulting in death or serious injury has been reported throughout the country over the last several years, prompting an organization to create the bleak, notorious website, the “Black Friday Death Count.” The most publicized incidents include a 2008 trampling death of a Wal-Mart employee and a 2011 incident that led a senior citizen to be left for dead at a Target store.

The Wal-Mart incident recently hit the newsstands again, after sources revealed that the store has yet to pay the $7,000 civil penalty for the worker’s death. Wal-Mart is appealing the fine, and the fate of the case presently rests with a federal review commission through the Department of Labor. A Wal-Mart spokesperson claims that the store has implemented new safety measures for Black Friday and daily shoppers in light of the death.

The Occupational Safety Health Administration seeks to maintain healthy and safe working conditions for employees working in the United States. The regulations the agency puts into place are binding among employers in the country and must be followed to avoid civil penalties. One regulation requires that workplaces must be “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to [their] employees” (emphasis added).

This, along with other similar regulations, suggests that stores have a legal duty to their employees to ensure they are protected from the type of harm that occurred to the Wal-Mart employee on that 2008 Black Friday. This type of safety regulation is not unique only to employees. The civil legal theory of premises liability provides that places such as restaurants and stores that open themselves up for public customers have a general duty to maintain the premises in a clean and safe manner. Store owners have more of a responsibility than private homeowners because they are opening their doors with the expectation that people will visit their premises.

Store owners must also continually ensure that their property is reasonably safe; this includes making periodic scans of the premises to ensure no new dangers have arisen since the last time they checked it. This may also include employing security personnel depending on the type of activities or events. Safety measures such as this are designed to prevent the types of incidents like those that occurred on the 2008 and 2011 Black Friday shopping days.

Pennsylvania Premises Liability Attorneys

If you or someone you know has suffered a personal injury due to an inadequately maintained premises, you may be entitled to compensation. If you were injured on the job while acting within the scope of your employment, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Regardless of whether you are a guest or employee, you have certain legal rights when you are on other people’s premises. An experienced Pennsylvania premises liability attorney at Solnick & Associates LLC can assist you in navigating your legal claim and helping you understand and exercise your rights.  Do not hesitate to contact us for a complimentary consultation today.


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