On November 21, Sandra S. Moran, Shareholder in Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney’s Litigation Section, was quoted extensively in an article in Insurance Journal about how businesses can protect themselves against litigation from injuries occurring on Black Friday.
Black Friday is the kickoff day for the holiday shopping season, but the large crowds have led to injuries and even death every year. Moran described who would be liable in these injury cases and what businesses should do to avoid lawsuits arising from them.
“Obviously it depends on the situation, but a wrongful death claim could be made by the estate of the deceased,” Moran said. “They could be faced with medical bills if it’s not a wrongful death. Loss of wages, disability, pain and suffering … it could add up, especially if the jury finds that the store failed to do anything in anticipation of large crowds.”
For crowd control, Moran explained how important it is for businesses to make a plan to protect its employees and customers on Black Friday and other high volume shopping days. The plan should include using proper signage for exit doors and giving tickets to customers for popular items to avoid stampedes of people trying to compete for that item.
“Make sure that you have proper coverage by staff, extra staff for security, making sure that everybody is trained properly with respect to what to expect within the holiday season even your temp workers to make sure that everybody is trained, not just your permanent staff,” said Moran.
She continued, “Make sure that you have a plan for people coming in and out of the store safely, where you don’t have a mob of people. You communicate to the shoppers that this is how you’re going to proceed.”
Developing a plan for these high volume shopping days is the best protection against potential lawsuits.
“It’s really a good plan and showing that you’ve made every effort in order to protect employees and shoppers,” Moran said.
OSHA and the National Retail Federation have developed crowd management guidelines that businesses can use to prepare better for Black Friday and other busy shopping days. Moran explained that the guidelines are a thorough outline for how businesses can protect themselves and their customers. She also explained that she would not be surprised if the guidelines are used in court.
Regarding liability issues for injuries that happen in parking lots or sidewalks, Moran cautioned that most plaintiffs will sue “the big pockets first.”
“It depends on who’s liable for maintaining the sidewalks. It could be the landlord or it could be the tenant. Most likely, in those cases, it’s probably the tenant,” she explained.