Costco Ordered to Reveal Flooring Policies in Slip-And-Fall Lawsuit

A federal judge in California revoked Costco's protective order, allowing the public to access information on the company's flooring policies in a slip and fall lawsuit filed by Jayashree Singh, who claims that Costco's flooring conditions are dangerous and wants to prevent further slip and fall cases.

Costco Ordered to Reveal Flooring Policies in Slip-And-Fall Lawsuit

ByCarolyn Casey, J.D.


Published on May 30, 2024

Costco Ordered to Reveal Flooring Policies in Slip-And-Fall Lawsuit

The case is Jayashree Singh v. Costco Wholesale Corp. et al., case number 5:20-cv-08180, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

A federal district court judge in the Northern District of California revoked a discovery protective order in which Costco attempted to keep its flooring policies out of the public eye. The Honorable Nathanael M. Cousins, U.S. Magistrate Judge, agreed with the plaintiff in this slip and fall case that the public has a right to see materials on the retail giant’s flooring selection and inspection policies, highlighting the broader context of Costco lawsuits.

Slip and Fall Lawsuit Filed Against Costco

Jayashree Singh filed a lawsuit saying she slipped and fell at the San Jose Costco location due to dangerous floor conditions. Singh has alleged that the store’s walking surface is inherently dangerous when the floor has a liquid, wet debris, or other substance on it.

Ms. Singh filed the suit in the Santa Clara County Superior Court. However, in November 2020, the behemoth Costco, valued at $212.4B, successfully moved the action to federal court.

Discovery Protective Order Deadline Missed

In February of 2021, the court established March 24, 2021 as the cut-off date for Costco to file a “proposed” discovery protective order. Protective orders allow parties to “seal” certain information disclosed during discovery, keeping it out of the public record because it is deemed confidential.

Costco didn’t submit the proposed protective order until April 2023. At that time the Court approved the tardy protective order.

U.S. Magistrate Revokes Protective Order

Singh argued that the Court should revoke the protective order. The Court agreed, revoking the protective order on May 8, 2023. The court struck down the order because Costco filed it two-plus years late without good cause. In doing so, the judge added that the parties had not agreed to protective when the company filed it. Moreover, due to the late filing, the Court said Singh would be disadvantaged in trying to respond to all the confidentiality assertions Costco has made.

Plaintiff Argued Information is Not Confidential

In the filing challenging the protective order, Ms. Singh attacked Costco’s claims that the information was sensitive and must be kept confidential from competitors. Her lawyers maintained that Costco’s flooring procedure that merely requires hourly inspections is not some optimal or special approach to flooring care that a competitor would seize and copy. Likewise, the plaintiff asserted that the company’s selection of flooring that is polished to remove all slip-resistive qualities is not something another business would want to emulate.

Bigger Risk – More Slip and Fall Lawsuits on Horizon?

Ms. Singh went on to say that the real risk Costco is trying to manage is testimony and documents detailing Costco’s sub-standard inspection policies and procedures and slippery flooring selection getting out in the public sphere. This information would be a boon to other plaintiffs wanting to sue Costco for injuries from a slip and fall in a store. Such Costco lawsuits could potentially multiply, as the company has 589 retail locations across the United States in 494 cities.

Litigants will no doubt avidly watch this case as it proceeds beyond discovery.

About the author

Carolyn Casey, J.D.

Carolyn Casey, J.D.

Carolyn Casey is a seasoned professional with extensive experience in legal tech, e-discovery, and legal content creation. As Principal of WritMarketing, she combines her decade of Big Law experience with two decades in software leadership to provide strategic consulting in product strategy, content, and messaging for legal tech clients. Previously, Carolyn served as Legal Content Writer for Expert Institute, Sr. Director of Industry Relations at AccessData, and Director of Product Marketing at Zapproved, focusing on industry trends in forensic investigations, compliance, privacy, and e-discovery. Her career also includes roles at Iron Mountain as Head of Legal Product Management and Sr. Product Marketing Manager, where she led product and marketing strategies for legal services, and at Fios Inc as Sr. Marketing Manager, specializing in eDiscovery solutions.

Her early legal expertise was honed at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, where she developed legal strategies for mergers, acquisitions, and international finance matters. Carolyn's education includes a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law, where she was a Senior Editor for the International Law Journal and participated in a pioneering China Summer Law Program. She also holds an AB in Political Science with a minor in art history from Stanford University. Her diverse skill set encompasses research, creative writing, copy editing, and a deep understanding of legal product marketing and international legal trends.

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