Shopper Slips on Lotion in Self-Service Grocery Store

    This case involves a shopper in a self-service grocery store. When the shopper was walking down an aisle between two rows of counters stocked with merchandise, he stepped on a substance that some other shoppers identified as hand lotion. The shopper slipped and fell and severely injured his back. The shopper sued the grocery store claiming that his fall was caused by the store’s negligence in failing to maintain safe premises for shoppers and also failing to warn shoppers about the dangerous condition in the store.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Can a shopper in a self-service grocery store sue the store if they slip on lotion that has been spilled and they suffer a back injury?

    Expert Witness Response

    Usually, a store has a duty to its customers to use ordinary care to keep the floors in a reasonably safe condition. If a store or one of its employee does not actually create a dangerous condition on the floor, the store can only be held liable for negligence if, after the store has notice of the dangerous condition, the store fails to correct the condition or fails to warn customers about the dangerous condition. This rule requires that a store have actual “notice” of a dangerous condition because such a condition is usually thought to be out of the ordinary. There is an exception to this rule requiring notice where a store’s operating methods are such that dangerous conditions are continuous or easily foreseeable. This exception usually applies to self-service grocery stores because in these stores there is easy access to merchandise and this often results in spillage and breakage of merchandise. Also, in self-service grocery stores, the customer’s attention is usually focused on the merchandise that is displayed and not focused on the floor where a dangerous condition might be present. Because of this exception, the store in this case is probably liable for negligence since it failed to clean up the lotion spill and this created a substantial risk of injury to customers. Since the store should have known that this type of spill might happen, the store was negligent in not inspecting the aisle and cleaning up the spill in order to maintain a safe condition for customers.

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