Personal injuries claims against stores in Maryland and the application of contributory negligence

by | Feb 23, 2022 | Firm News | 0 comments

       The recent Maryland appellate decision of Cador v. Yes Organic Market Hyattsvile, Inc. (February 1, 2022) addressed the application of contributory negligence of a customer who suffered a personal injury when she slipped and fell on a wet floor in a super market.   The appellate court found held that whether or not the customer knew or should have known the floors were slippery from having been mopped was an issue for a jury to decide.  

The store argued that the customer was contributory negligence for two reasons.  First, there was a sign near the entrance of the store stating that the floors were wet.  Secondly, the existence of a yellow mop bucket in the subject aisle somehow provided notice that the floors were slippery. 

 The appellate court held that a wet floor sign at the entrance of the store was insufficient as a matter of law to warn a customer that a particular aisle on the other side of the store was slippery.   

Secondly, the customer denied having seen the yellow mop bucket in the subject aisle.  In this regard, it is well established law in Maryland that shoppers are expected to look at the merchandise in an aisle, not at their feet.  Chalmers v. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., 172 MD. 552, 559 (1937) (“The storekeeper expects and intends that his customers shall look not at the floor but at the goods displayed which he displays to attract their attention and which he hopes they will buy. He at least ought not to complain, if they look at the good displayed instead of at the floor to discover possible pitfalls, obstructions, or other dangers, or if their purchases so encumber them as to prevent them from seeing dangers which might otherwise be apparent”).

But even if the customer had seen a yellow mop bucket in the aisle before slipping and falling, the yellow mop bucket does not constitute a “distinct, prominent and decisive” warning that the floors were slippery.  Such an unattended bucket could either mean that the mopping had not started in the particular aisle or that mopping had been completed.  

Practice Pointer:  In Maryland, it is much easier to prevail in a slip and fall personal injury case that occurs inside a store than one that occurs outside of the store.    There reason is that there is a substantial difference between the kind and degree of vigilance which a traveler on a street must exercise to avoid danger and that which is required of a customer in a store.  When walking outside, the pedestrian is expected to avoid patently dangerous conditions, such as uneven pavement, potholes and ice.

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