If you don’t know the children’s book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the movie, the townspeople never had to shop because their meals would fall from the sky fully prepared. Later on, climate change makes things dangerous. For me, the notion of things unexpectedly falling from the sky is instructive. For no apparent reason, I have been on the receiving end of a series of claims against Home Depot and Lowe’s and other big box type stores. The typical case goes as follows: A person goes to Lowe’s and is picking something off of a shelf at head level or higher. There are no ladders around and customers are not permitted to be on ladders anyway. So, the customer pulls a 2×4 or something large off the overhead shelf and Bam! something other than the 2×4 falls on them from above. I have had two or three of these calls in the past six months and I am just one of many personal injury lawyers so it is safe to assume that this is a persistent problem. I used to have one a year, but that looks to have quadrupled by my count.
Is this a case? Of course, it is. You are there as a customer or a business invitee as we lawyers call you. The law says Home Depot has a legal responsibility to investigate and determine if there are dangers in their store. If they fail to detect the danger, they are liable to you. Further, if they created the danger, they are liable.
So, what’s the big deal? Well, often people have minimal injuries, but I was recently consulted by a client who was hit on collarbone by a falling “safety bar” as the big box store calls it. When you are injured by something called a safety bar, you can be pretty sure that that case is going to be settled or your lawyer will have a field day at a deposition. Why? Well, first, things are not supposed to fall out of the sky and hit you. Second, safety things are not supposed to hurt people. Overall, the big box retailer loses. The only question is when and for how much.
As a result of these indefensible situations, most big box retailers have pre-suit mediation programs that settle these cases. As with most clear liability cases, the injuries are what drive the value of the case. More injuries, more dollars for the client. Easy to understand. Basically, it’s a pretty safe bet for me to take clear liability cases and make sure to have real definable injuries. Real injuries are things like a broken this or nerve injury detectable on Emg etc.