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Are store owners liable for falling boxes?

If you were driving along a California hill or a mountainside, you might see a sign that says "beware of falling rocks." Rocks rolling or dropping down a mountain would not be unexpected, and so you would consider that warning to be a legitimate risk. However, you would not expect to enter a big store or a warehouse and experience the same risk of boxes and packaging falling on your head. So if you should be hurt by a package dropping on you, can you sue the store?

Make no mistake that owners of stores and warehouses have an obligation to keep their facilities safe for customers. If boxes are housed on shelves above the heads of passing customers or employees, those boxes should be secured so they do not fall over. According to Findlaw, a falling box in a store can result in liability for the owner if it strikes and hurts a shopper.

If the owner of the store was aware that storing the box high above shoppers posed a danger, the owner could be liable for your injuries under the doctrine of premises liability. Since building owners have a responsibility to keep their properties safe, negligence in carrying out this responsibility means a person can sue to recoup medical bills resulting from the injury.

Sometimes an injury caused by falling items does not simply fall under the auspices of premises liability. Storing boxes on a high shelf is not inherently dangerous if it is done properly. However, an employee could have acted carelessly while stocking inventory. An employer could be on the hook if the store did not train the employee in how to correctly place the box. A breakdown of the store's chain of command could also be at work here. A supervisor may not have checked the employee's work and allowed a poor placement of inventory to stand.

Please be aware that while this article does provide information on premises liability issues, it does not convey any legal advice to readers.

 

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