Slip-and-Fall Case Dismissed Based on Plaintiff’s Failure to Prove that Grocery Store Violated a Duty of Care

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit discussing an essential aspect of New Mexico premises liability cases. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff established that the defendant grocery store owed him a duty of care. Finding that the store did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care in this particular situation, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was seriously injured as he attempted to obtain a shopping cart from a corral of carts near the entrance of the defendant grocery store. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the store, claiming that the store’s greeter was negligent in that he failed to provide a staged shopping cart for the plaintiff’s use.

In support of his claim, the plaintiff cited the store’s standard operating procedures, which stated that when a store greeter had the opportunity, he should stage three or four shopping carts at the end of a line by separating them from each other and loosely nesting them. The store responded that the staging of shopping carts was a secondary duty of a store greeter, whose primary purpose was to greet all customers and assist them as needed.

The greeter testified that on the day of the accident he had staged several carts before the plaintiff’s arrival, but other customers had already taken the carts when the plaintiff arrived. Surveillance video of the accident showed that the greeter was helping another man at the time of the plaintiff’s accident.

The Court’s Decision

The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the duty owed by the store was set by its standard operating procedures. The court explained that previous decisions did not support the plaintiff’s position, and that a store’s duty to its customers is generally determined by applying traditional principles of negligence, rather than the specific internal procedures employed by a company. In this case, the court held that by implementing standard operating procedures directing an idle employee to assist in the staging of shopping carts for customers, a store does not take on an “affirmative duty” to provide every customer with a staged cart.

The court went on to explain that even under the plaintiff’s proposed analysis, he failed to prove that the greeter failed to follow standard operating procedures. Specifically, the court noted that the evidence suggested that the greeter had staged several carts before the plaintiff’s arrival, and that the greeter was in the process of helping another customer at the time the plaintiff fell. The court noted that under the store’s policies, greeting customers took priority over staging carts and that it was reasonable for the greeter to focus on another customer who needed her assistance.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a New Mexico slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated New Mexico personal injury lawyers at the Fine Law Firm have decades of collective experience handling all types of New Mexico personal injury claims, including Albuquerque slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more, call 505-889-FINE to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Permits Car Accident Victim’s Case to Proceed Against Allegedly Negligent Police Officer, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2018.

Court Discusses Applicable Legal Standard in Vacation Rental Premises Liability Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 30, 2018.