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“Welcome! Our store provides low prices and high risk of injury”

Slips and falls on ice, debris or spills at a supermarket can and do lead to serious injury, but a business may aggressively fight paying what they owe to injured customers.

In Massachusetts, supermarkets and shops must keep their premises free from dangerous conditions. This includes removing snow and ice from sidewalks and parking lots in a reasonable amount of time, keeping aisles free of debris, mopping up spills in a reasonably short amount of time, and otherwise ensuring that shoppers are safe when browsing goods.

Unfortunately, accidents are all too common. In a highly competitive market, businesses can be under great pressure to cut costs to keep prices low. Sometimes, this comes at the cost of customer service and safety. A store may be understaffed or undertrained, meaning there are not enough employees to keep aisles and parking lots safe for walking. And some stores will aggressively fight their customers who do become injured, in an attempt to keep business costs down.

An injured shopper has rights through a civil lawsuit

When a slip and fall accident occurs there are legal options available to the injured shopper. If a store owner had knowledge of a dangerous condition, or should have known of a dangerous condition, and fails to warn customers or fix the condition, the store is responsible for any resulting injuries.

Of course, there are nuances to this law. For example, in 2010 the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts changed the law of the state by abolishing “the distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations of snow and ice.” Instead, Massachusetts now treats all hazards arising from snow and ice the same. Namely, that a property owner owes lawful visitors a reasonable duty to keep its premises safe from all ice and snow accumulation, as it does all other hazards ( Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation ).

Fighting aggressive defendants

An injured shopper just wants help with recovery. Unfortunately, many defendants in personal injury lawsuits involving a fall because of a property defect or dangerous condition are unwilling to help an injured customer.

An unreported opinion in the Superior Court of Massachusetts last year provides a good example. In the case, a defendant supermarket did not keep video evidence of a customer’s fall in a grocery store. Instead, the store recorded over the tape after 30 days, essentially destroying the only video of the accident. The judge in the case did not find enough evidence to show an intentional destruction of evidence. However, because the defendant should have known that the tape would be requested in litigation, the judge ruled that there was “spoliation” of evidence. As such, the lawyer for the injured customer could tell the jury in the case that the supermarket may have destroyed evidence that showed it was negligent in mopping up a spill ( Rivera v. Demoulas Super Markets, Inc.).

Experienced representation can help

When a defendant is uncooperative or unwilling to settle, the plaintiff’s attorney must aggressively gather evidence, prepare for trial and ensure that the plaintiff’s rights are being upheld in all aspects of the case.

At t Dane Shulman Associates, LLP, our attorneys have years of experience representing plaintiffs in slip and fall and premises liability claims.

Keywords: Slip and fall, premises liability, injured shopper, grocery stores, parking lots, personal injury lawsuit.

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