Massachusetts Court Discusses Elements of a Negligence Claim Against a Store Owner

Generally, when a customer is injured while shopping at a business, it is due to a dangerous condition. Although a customer injured by a dangerous condition at a business can pursue damages from the business, in most cases, the business will only be deemed liable if it knew or should have known of the dangerous condition that caused the customer’s harm. This was discussed in a recent Massachusetts case in which the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims due to insufficient evidence that the defendant knew of a foreseeable risk of harm. If you suffered personal injuries due to a dangerous condition at a business, you should meet with a trusted Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss whether you may be able to pursue a claim for damages.

Factual Background

It is reported that the plaintiff visited the defendant’s store to shop for groceries. When she entered the store, she took a shopping cart. She placed a newspaper in the cart and noticed it was slightly wobbly, but did not exchange it for another cart. When she was emptying the shopping cart at the check-out counter, the weight of the shopping cart shifted, and the cart fell on top of her, causing her to sustain injuries. She subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, arguing the defendant was negligent for allowing customers to use a defective shopping cart. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff could not establish the elements of negligence as required to recover damages.

Proving Liability for a Dangerous Condition at a Store

Under Massachusetts law, an owner of a store has a duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition in consideration of all of the circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of a potential injury, and the burden of eliminating the risk of injury. Pursuant to that duty, store owners must guard against risks of harm that are foreseeable. In other words, a store owner must prevent risks of harm that it knows about or reasonably should know about, and which can be diminished via reasonably preventative measures.

The law affords store owners a reasonable chance to discover and remediate any risks before liability will be imposed, however.  As such, if a store owner has no actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition and, therefore, did not have a reasonable opportunity to remove the condition, liability will not be imposed on the store owner. In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff failed to establish liability because the plaintiff did not produce any evidence that the defendant knew or should have known that the shopping cart presented a danger. Further, the court found that the plaintiff failed to prove causation, in that she presented no evidence that the shopping cart’s allegedly wobbly wheel caused it to tip over. Thus, the court dismissed the case via summary judgment.

Speak with a Capable Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you suffered injuries in an accident that occurred at a business, it is prudent to speak with a capable attorney to discuss your rights. The experienced personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan are adept at aiding injured parties in the pursuit of damages, and we will work tirelessly to help you seek a just outcome. You can contact us via the form online or at 508-822-6600 to schedule a confidential and free meeting.