Can I recover for injuries sustained following a slip and fall in a parking lot?
Under New Jersey premises liability laws, a shop owner or store manager is required to ensure all common areas are safe and free from unreasonable danger. This duty includes not only obvious dangers, but hazards that could only be discovered through an inspection of the property – which is also required under the law. In other words, a store owner cannot escape liability by willfully ignoring the safety of the store and adjacent areas, including the parking lot.
In January, 2012, a woman was carrying a tray of hot coffees through the parking lot of a Highland Park Dunkin’ Donuts when she sudden tripped and fell on an unknown object on the pavement. Upon further inspection, the plaintiff discovered that a curb stop had become dislodged, resulting in the presence of a metal spike rebar where the cement curb stop should have been. Because of this hazard, the plaintiff not only fell to the ground, but burned herself with hot coffee in the process. In fact, her shoulder injuries were so severe that she required surgery.
Following several years of discovery and settlement negotiations, the case was ultimately slated for a trial in September, 2015. However, as is often the case in these scenarios, the defendant opted to settle with the plaintiff at the last minute for a sum of $522,000.
In a statement by the plaintiff’s attorney, “[b]asic standards for parking lot maintenance are for the protection and safety of the general public….Allowing a metal spike to protrude out of the asphalt clearly violates these standards….”
In sum, Dunkin’ Donuts presumably concluded that its chances of success at a trial would likely be diminished by the fact that it allowed the metal spike to remain in the parking lot without adequate warning signs to protect customers – a notion known as “mitigation” that can help save potential victims from injury.
If you have been recently injured in a slip and fall in New Jersey or New York City and would like to discuss your rights, please contact one of our experienced, dedicated personal injury attorneys at Nagel Rice, LLP today. We can be reached at 973.618.0400 or 212.551.1465.