A shopping trip to Costco shouldn't end with a serious injury, but it does happen.
The law requires stores such as Costco to maintain their premises in reasonably safe condition and to warn of any dangers they know of, or those they should have been aware of. Costco requires its employees to inspect the floors on a regular basis and to clean up and warn of any wet or slippery floors.
Although Costco has these policies, slippery floors are a significant cause of customer injuries at the wholesale store. This article offers some tips if you've been involved in a slip and fall incident in a Costco store.
What Do I Have to Prove?
In a slip and fall case, you must prove certain elements. First, you must have been on the premises lawfully. Costco encourages shoppers to come into its stores and make purchases. You, the customer, are known in legal terms as an invitee. Since Costco invites people to come into its stores and shop, Costco owes its customers the highest duty of care that a property owner is obligated to act with under the law.
Second, you must prove that the store either created the hazard or had notice of the hazard. The notice required could be actual or constructive, meaning that the store either knew or should have known of the dangerous condition in the store. Once the store should have seen the spill, the store has a duty to clean up the spill and warn customers of the danger. You can prove that Costco should have discovered the spill if a Costco employee walked past the spill and ignored it, if Costco failed to notice the spill during regular inspections of the floor, or if another customer already complained of the spill.
Once a store knows or should know of a slippery substance on the floor, the store must either warn customers of the danger or clean up the substance. The failure to do so is the third element in a slip and fall case.
Fourth, you must have been injured due to the store’s negligence in failing to warn of or clean the spill. You will want to present medical documentation of the extent of your injury. If you can prove all these elements of a slip and fall case, you may be entitled to recover medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for your pain and suffering because of your injuries.
What Common Slip and Fall Defenses Might Costco Assert?
Costco may claim that it is not liable for a customer’s injuries because the customer should have seen the slippery substance on the floor and avoided it. You may not be able to recover if a reasonably alert person in your position would have avoided the slippery area.
If you were intoxicated or acting irresponsibly when you were injured, you will have a weaker case.
Costco also could claim that its safety measures were reasonable and adequate. The unique facts of each case may determine whether Costco indeed took reasonable measures to protect its customers from dangers on its premises.
What Are Some Examples of Slip and Falls at Costco?
In 2012, a jury in California sided with a plaintiff who slipped on a puddle of liquid soap and shattered her kneecap in a Costco store. According to the injured woman, multiple Costco employees already had passed by and ignored the spill. Costco was ordered to pay more than $400,000 for the woman’s medical expenses, pain, and suffering.
In a 2011 slip and fall known as the potsticker case, a woman sued a Costco store in California after slipping on food and injuring her tailbone. Costco employees had been passing out free food samples nearby. The injured woman alleged that Costco should have been conducting inspections of the floors more frequently than once an hour since customers were walking around the store sampling food. The jury disagreed and sided with Costco. It found that hourly inspections of the floor were adequate.
In a Florida Costco store in 2009, a woman from New York slipped on a spilled ice drink. When she fell, she seriously injured her back. She brought suit against Costco in New York. Costco attempted to move the case to Florida, where the injury occurred. The New York judge denied Costco’s motion and allowed the case to be tried in New York instead of Florida. The ruling was notable because it saved the plaintiff the expense and ordeal of traveling while injured. The court required the defendant Costco store to bear the burden of trying the case in another state.
How Do You Build a Strong Case?
Seek medical treatment for your injuries as soon as you can. The sooner that you see a doctor after your slip and fall, the stronger the evidence you will have to present in your case.
If your injuries do not require emergency medical attention, request that the store file an incident report. For your own documentation of the slip and fall, note how many Costco employees were in the area of the slippery substance at the time. Other shoppers may be able to provide you with useful eyewitness accounts.
Finally, as you build your case against the wholesale giant, you may want to consider consulting a lawyer who has experience with slip and fall claims.