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When can a store be held responsible for injuries to customers?

When most Knoxville residents imagine someone getting seriously injured, they may think of dangerous or risky situations where injuries are more likely to result. In reality, serious injuries can occur even in the most normal and benign of environments, when getting hurt is the furthest thing from someone's mind.

A good example of this is with injuries that occur at retail stores. A customer of a store is often preoccupied with checking items off his or her list during the shopping trip, when an incident like a slip and fall can occur. These incidents can be surprisingly damaging for individuals, as even a simple slip and fall can result in serious injuries.

Fortunately, the customer has some legal relief against the property owner for the injury. Through a premises liability action, injured persons can hold the property owner or others accountable when the injury was caused through negligence.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has recognized the viability of these actions. For example, in one case, a customer was hurt in a Wal-Mart parking lot after another customer backed her car into the customer. The incident happened after a Wal-Mart pharmacy employee did not fill the woman's prescription, and allowed her to leave the store without taking any precautions to protect others. The Court recognized that Wal-Mart could have a burden to prevent harm to other customers, and the harm that would result against other customers needs to be balanced against the predictability of the customer's actions.

This is not to say that stores will be held liable in all cases like this, or in all slip and fall accidents or other incidents resulting in injury to customers. The facts of each case need to be examined to determine if the store had a duty to protect its customers, and if the store took or failed to take actions that caused the customer's injuries. If the injured plaintiff can prove these elements against the store, that plaintiff may be able to obtain compensation.

Source: Tennessee Courts, "Supreme Court rules woman injured by customer in Wal-mart parking lot can proceed in suit against store," Dec. 18, 2013

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