Over the years, I have represented many clients who have hurt themselves in slips and falls at supermarkets. We do not think of our local supermarket as a hazardous location, yet it turns out they are prone to small puddles due to spills and problems with coolers. In the last few years alone, I have handled half a dozen cases where my clients slipped and fell on a puddle inside a supermarket. Here are is a sample case:
A Case of a Slip and Fall in a Supermarket
On a snowy January night, a retired man entered a small supermarket in the Bronx, walking across a black mat placed in the entrance to capture water from patron’s shoes as they entered the store. He headed towards the juice aisle near the coolers and some drink fountains. As the man turned to enter the appropriate aisle, he slipped and fell on accumulated water on the floor and landed on his right hip. He lay motionless on the ground and called for help. After initially ignoring his cries, the store employees came and offered to help the man. Because of the pain in his hip, the man was unable to stand and one of the employees brought out a milk crate on which he could sit.
The man asked the employees to call an ambulance and the employees laughed at him. After multiple requests, an employee finally called for an ambulance. The man had entered the store at approximately 2:25 a.m. and the ambulance records show that no one called for an ambulance until 2:55 a.m. Their delay and behavior caused great anguish, pain and humiliation for my client.
While the man waited for an ambulance, the store manager placed a warning sign over the accumulated water, though he did not clean or remove the water during the time that my client was in the store waiting for the ambulance.
Hospital x-rays revealed that the man had fractured his pubis. While doctors opted not to perform surgery, they kept the man in the hospital for six days and he underwent a long and rigorous physical therapy program after discharge.
The man came to me seeking help. He wanted to make sure the supermarket paid for his medical bills, but he also wanted compensation for the injuries he suffered and the humiliation he felt when the employees laughed at him and refused his requests for assistance.
We had to prove that the supermarket was liable for the man’s fall. We did so using several key points of evidence and testimony:
- The client testified that he slipped and, when he fell, he landed in the small puddle that caused the fall.
- The store was aware of the potential for water to gather indicated both by the mat they placed to collect water from patrons and because water had gathered at the same spot on a regular basis.
- The ambulance recorded that the man slipped and fell and was wet from the puddle.
- The store manager testified that, after the fact, he placed a warning sign because of the puddle.
The defense argued that the store employees were unaware of the puddle and when they learned of it, the manager put up the warning sign. We argued that the store manager should have been aware of the puddle because he knew people were tracking water into the store and because water gathered in that area before.
We documented the damages suffered by the man in several ways:
- Medical records documented the nature of the injury and the treatment needed for the injury.
- The man testified about his pain and suffering, the recovery period and his diminished movement.
- Statements of friends about the differences between the man’s activity levels before and after the incident and the effort his recovery required.
Ultimately, the defense believed we could prove the supermarket’s liability in court and could document the injuries. They settled the case for $60,000.
Winning a Negligence Case Against a Supermarket
When I receive a call and the client says, “I fell and hurt myself in a supermarket, do I have a case?” I explain the two conditions they must meet to seek damages in a supermarket fall:
- You must have suffered damages. This requirement may seem obvious. If I trip and fall, land on the ground, get up, dust myself off and keep walking, then I have suffered no damages. If I trip and fall, twist my ankle, require a soft cast and have limited movement for several weeks, I have suffered damages. If I break a bone in my hand and hurt my back, tear my best suit, spend a week in the hospital and miss six months of work due to medical rehabilitation, then I have suffered significant damages.
- The other person or party must have caused this accident through their negligence or direct action. It is not enough that you trip and fell; the supermarket must have caused you to trip or fall and we need to be able to prove the negligence of the supermarket.
If You Have Hurt Yourself in a Fall at A Supermarket
If you or someone you love is injured in a fall, the most important objective is to treat that person’s medical needs. See a doctor as soon as possible or go to an emergency room. It is important to follow the doctor’s orders. If the doctor recommends physical therapy, make sure you follow through with the physical therapy.
If you think you have a case, you should consult with a personal injury attorney who has handled supermarket cases. That attorney can evaluate your case and guide you. You should not have to pay a fee for that consultation.
You can help your case by gathering as much information about the incident and accident scene as soon as possible. These steps include:
- Write down the exact address and location of the accident.
- Take pictures of the accident scene. Remember, your phone might have a camera.
- Write down the names and contact information of any witnesses.
- Take notes about the accident. What happened right before the accident, the actual event and the aftermath.
I like to visit the supermarket with my client to make sure that I understand exactly how the incident occurred and to prepare the best possible prosecution of the case.
If the supermarket did not file a incident report, your attorney will guide you on filing that report. If you are contacted by a representative from the supermarket or the insurance company for the supermarket, you should refer that person to your attorney. Making a misstatement or saying the wrong thing can undermine your case, which is why it is best to refer inquiries to your attorney.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you or a loved one have been hurt in a slip and fall at a supermarket, you may want to consult a New York personal injury attorney experienced with supermarket cases. I would be glad to answer your questions and assist you. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me. You can also visit my website or read more on my blog, New York Law Thoughts.
Carol L. Schlitt
New York Personal Injury Attorney
This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney.