Unfortunately, anywhere you walk that has a slippery, uneven or improperly maintained surface can result in a slip and fall injury. Further, locations where several of these variables come together – cracked parking lots, places where food and drinks are served and large crowds – can be even more hazardous. Indoor shopping malls and outdoor centers have many of these dangerous characteristics.
However, pursuing a claim can be more complicated when multiple factors are involved. Maintenance responsibility and negligence may fall on several parties, often depending on where the accident happened. Additionally, as with any slip and fall claim, some responsibility falls on the plaintiff to be aware of his or her surroundings. This can be a challenge to prove, especially when you’re contending with large crowds on Black Friday or poor lighting in a parking lot.
Yet, when you trip over a piece of merchandise, slip on a spilled drink in the food court or fall down a flight of wobbly stairs, what can you do? Keep the following points in mind.
Common Risks in Shopping Malls
By design, certain risks are inherent to enclosed malls or open-air shopping centers, including:
- Merchandise that has fallen onto the floor and partially blocks an aisle
- Debris from rocks, stones or tree roots around the parking lot and perimeter
- Cracked asphalt and sidewalks
- Slippery surfaces by the entrance
- Spilled drinks and food on the floor of the food court
Some of these hazards pose greater risks than others. According to one study analyzing slip and fall accidents in shopping malls, most incidents can be attributed to spilled food or liquid. This lack of maintenance often stems from inadequate housekeeping services and poor health inspections. By contrast, the design of a shopping mall caused the smallest percentage of accidents.
Other factors that caused shoppers to slip and fall include:
- Slick interior surfaces, including wet floors
- Large crowds
- Poor lighting that masks a hazardous condition
- Unmarked torn carpeting, cracked tiles or a damaged ramp or stair
- Malfunctioning escalators
- Ice and snow that has not been cleared
Duty to Customers
Those managing, operating or simply working at the shopping mall have a duty to patrons to adhere to the following standards:
- Monitor all aisles and walkways, removing debris when it’s detected and clearly label hazards that need to be addressed.
- Clear away snow and ice from the parking lot and mop up any water in the entryway.
- Repair potholes and other damaged areas in the parking lot and walkways.
- Have a plan in place to detect hazards in a reasonable amount of time and either repair them or label the hazard with signs and barriers.
Pursuing a Claim
After an injury is sustained and you’re facing medical bills, time off from work and reduced wages, you may want to file a claim. However, because the shopping mall is not a single entity, where and how the injury happened determine who you pursue. Consider these three scenarios:
- If the injury clearly happened in a store, your claim would involve the store’s owners and employees. For example, you tripped over a clothing rack where merchandise was strewn about in a large department store.
- If the injury happened in a public place, your claim would name the mall’s owner and its employees for negligence. The food court is a common spot for this type of slip and fall injury when messes are not cleaned up in a timely manner.
- If the injury occurs in the parking lot, the defendant may be mall management or third-party responsible for cleaning and repairing the grounds. Depending on how this relationship works, both parties could be named.
However, complications can arise when the injury occurs right by a store. The contract a store has with mall management often entails keeping their premises clean. However, if the mall also has a janitorial crew to clean up messes and make repairs, further responsibility falls on them to notice and address a safety hazard.
Regardless of who you pursue a claim against, your case will involve proving that:
- The mall, store employees or a third-party company was aware of the hazard.
- Your injuries directly stem from the hazard.
- The hazard was unseen, poorly marked or covered up in some way, making it unavoidable.
- You took proper care to avoid the hazard, being aware of your surroundings and not behaving in a reckless manner.
We don’t think you should have to pay for someone else’s negligence. Call Trantolo & Trantolo and we will help you hold the neglectful party responsible.