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Liability and Black Friday accidents

Black Friday is a day that gets mixed reviews from the American public. Some cannot wait for the day and they will stand in lines all night long just to get the chance to buy a new television set for half price. Meanwhile, others loathe the day and end up staying at home in order to escape the shopping mayhem. Regardless of what you think about the holiday, there are a lot of precautions that stores need to make because the pushing and shoving shoppers could end up hurting each other -- which is definitely a liability risk for the stores.

In terms of premises liability issues, common law classifies people who go onto another person's property as a trespasser, a licensee or an invitee. The "invitee" category is the one we are most interested in when it comes to the liability of stores on Black Friday, because this category is defined as visitors who enter a property for the purpose of benefiting the property owner, i.e., for the purpose of spending money by shopping for goods. Under common law, property owners are required to inspect their properties and warn of any defects or dangers found on the premises before the invitee comes onto the property.

In modern times, however, different states and courts do not always accept the above premises liability law. Rather, they employ a more universal standard, which puts a level of responsibility on property owners that can even apply to cases of trespassers getting injured. Still, under both interpretations, landowners tend to owe the highest responsibility of care to people who step onto their property for the purpose of spending money.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has published safety guidelines for retailers relating to crowd management. These guidelines say that stores should provide adequate security and various measures to control crowds. As such, failing to provide these controls might make the store liable in the event of a crowd-related Black Friday accident.

It is important to remember that every Black Friday-related accident will be different. Perhaps one customer punches another customer in the face, for example. In that kind of incident, the offending customer could be the one who is liable and not the store. If you have been injured on Black Friday, a personal injury attorney will be able to provide you with insight on potential liability issues relating to your particular case.

Source: CNN, "Black Friday's liability risk for stores," Danny Cevallos, accessed Nov. 24, 2015

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