Retailers have plenty to gain on Black Friday, but personal injury lawyers have also found ways to cash in when the rush to grab the hottest deals results in legal claims.
The unofficial beginning of the holiday shopping season has led to injuries and even death for shoppers caught up in the mad scramble to snatch sale items before they disappear off shelves.
There’s “an uptick” in consumer-related personal injuries after Black Friday, Dominic M.V. Braus, an attorney with The Carlson Law Firm, a Texas firm that handles personal injury cases, told Bloomberg Law.
“It’s more dangerous when you’ve got all these people struggling around, trying to find the best deals,” Braus said.
Black Friday injuries stem from many sources, from fist fights between irate customers, to poorly placed shopping baskets, to stampedes of eager deal hunters.
And the consequences can be quite serious. A Wal-Mart employee in Long Island, N.Y., was killed in 2008 after eager shoppers trampled her to death in their haste to get into the store.
After the fatality, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration went as far as to create a fact sheet containing crowd control measures for retailers to use to protect workers during major retail events.
Braus’s advice for consumers on how to avoid injuries?
Don’t go to Black Friday sales, he said.
But if you do, avoid promotions that have a limited number of items and no control over who gets them; don’t go to “doorbuster” sales; and be careful walking through parking lots because there’s a lot more circulation and competition to get into stores, Braus said.
Here are five lawsuits that should inspire personal injury lawyers looking to get some of their own Black Friday business:
1. Wrongly Tased: A Virginia man sued Cabela’s in 2018 after security guards wrongly detained, tased, and then handcuffed him for allegedly shoplifting ammunition on Black Friday. He was released after video footage and a search revealed he didn’t steal anything. He sued the officers for false imprisonment, assault, trespass, as well as constitutional violations. A federal district court in May dismissed the trespass and one constitutional claim but allowed the other claims to proceed. The plaintiff is seeking $700,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
2. “Negligent” Shopping Basket: An Illinois woman sued Kmart after tripping over a shopping basket on her way to a cashier and sustaining injuries on Black Friday in 2013. She claimed the store had been negligent in placing the basket there or failing to remove it. A lower court dismissed the suit but a state appeals court reversed in August. The plaintiff presented circumstantial evidence “from which it could be inferred that it was more likely that an employee placed the basket on the floor rather than a customer,” the appeals court said, and sent the case back to the lower court.
3. Trampled by Crowd: A Kansas woman sued Wal-Mart in 2014 after she was knocked over and “stomped on” by patrons rushing to get a $49.99 tablet. The woman claimed the store negligently failed to protect the customers even though it knew of past instances of trampling on Black Friday. The parties settled in 2015.
4. Skateboard in Aisle: An Oklahoma woman sued Wal-Mart in 2013 after tripping over a skateboard in the toy aisle of one of the stores while shopping on Black Friday. The parties settled shortly after a federal district court refused to dismiss the case because “reasonable minds could differ as to whether a concealed danger was created by the skateboard in the toy aisle, given that Plaintiff was shopping on Black Friday and that other toys and boxes may have been in the toy aisle.”
5. Missing the Sign: A Louisiana woman slipped on a clear sign on the floor of a Dillard’s store on Black Friday in 2009 and sued for the injuries she sustained that required treatment, including pain management, physical therapy, and surgery. A state appeals court affirmed dismissal of the case in 2015 after finding that she didn’t prove that the sign had been on the floor long enough for the store to have known of it.
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