A New York discount store may be facing a string of lawsuits after eight people were injured during an in-store accident earlier this month. The incident occurred at the Discount Outlet store in the Bronx when a shelf collapsed in the center aisle of the store. This caused a domino-effect, with one shelving unit falling into the next. Two or three more shelves were taken down and merchandise spilled off the shelves. Many people managed to escape, but some were unfortunately taken down by the falling debris.
Fire and police officials rushed to the scene, but traffic jams caused by the Yankees home opener slowed them down. A few people were pulled from the debris early on, but seven people, including three children, remained trapped under piles of various products. All were rescued and taken to a local hospital in serious condition. An eighth person suffered minor injuries when they tried to help the others.
Federal inspectors and city officials are investigating the incident. There is reportedly no structural damage, but the Department of Buildings concluded that the shelves collapsed due to the weight of the merchandise on them. A full vacate order was issued and the store was given a violation for failure to maintain. There is no date set for when the store will re-open.
Property owners may owe certain duties to those who enter their property. Negligent property owners may be held liable for injuries that occur on their property. The duties owed depend on what type of visitor is on the property. Visitors can be classified as invitees, licensees or trespassers. A customer who enters a store is typically considered an invitee. This means that the owner of the store property must take reasonable steps to make sure that the store is safe for its customers.
The owner has a duty to inspect their property and identify dangerous conditions. If an owner knows about a dangerous condition but fails to take reasonable steps to fix the condition and fails to warn visitors of the condition, they may be liable for injuries that occur on the premises because of the condition.
Source: CBS New York, "8 Injured When Shelves Collapse At Bronx Discount Store," April 7, 2014