Costco, like other big-box retail stores, is a huge warehouse with lots of people coming and going. The parking lot is a chaos of cars, people, and overflowing carts. Inside, there are about 150,000 square feet of floor space, with merchandise often stacked high on pallets. People are trying to maneuver giant carts loaded with mega-sized products while munching on the free samples given at the end of every aisle.
Places of business like Costco have a responsibility to their customers and other business visitors to provide a safe environment for transacting business. But that doesn’t mean the store is responsible for every injury that occurs on a Costco property.
When injuries occur, the circumstances will be investigated to determine if the store is legally responsible. Persons who are injured at Costco need to be aware of the laws and what they should do to protect their rights after an injury.
Premises Liability is the Primary Basis for Injury Claims Against Costco
Property owners and operators in Texas owe varying duties to persons who come upon their property. People who are lawfully on the property of others can expect a certain amount of care has been taken to protect them from harmful situations they may not be aware of.
Costco invites the public into its warehouses to purchase its products. People come to the store to do business with Costco. Under the law in Texas, Costco owes the highest legal duty of care to customers and others visiting the property for business purposes.
Costco’s legal duty is to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. This includes warning those who enter the property about any known hazards that are not readily identifiable. It also includes conducting periodic inspections of the property to identify any new hazards that may arise. When hazards exist, Costco must take reasonable measures to eliminate the risk of harm.
When Costco may not be Liable for Someone Injured
Costco is only expected to do what is reasonable. If Costco is found to have acted reasonably under the circumstances, the store may not be liable to someone who gets injured while on its property.
People who may become injured are also expected to act reasonably. A person who contributes to the circumstances resulting in an injury may not be able to recover from Costco or may have their compensation reduced. Costco may assert any of the following in defense of its liability for injuries that occur:
- The injured person knew of the risk and chose to disregard it
- The injured person should have known of the risk because it was obvious to any reasonable person
- The injured person’s own actions created the risk
How People Get Injured at Costco
People can be injured while at Costco by another customer, by the actions of an employee, or by a condition existing on the property. The following situations have been known to cause injuries on Costco properties:
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents
- Falling objects
- Contact with employees using vehicles or equipment
- Contact with other customers’ carts or cars
Depending on how an injury occurs, Costco may not be responsible for the damage or may only be partially responsible. Costco is only required to do what is reasonable to keep customers safe. The store is also generally not liable for the actions of non-employees.
Slip-and-fall accidents are a fairly common source of premises liability claims. Slippery substances can get spilled on floors. Failing to maintain paths of travel can create uneven walking surfaces.
Slip-and-fall hazards can develop over time, or they may arise suddenly from unexpected events. The longer a slip-and-fall hazard is allowed to exist when it should have been discovered and corrected, the more unreasonable the property owner’s actions will be deemed.
However, when a gallon jar of pickles falls from an overhead shelf, and 20 seconds later a customer rounds the corner and slips in the pickle juice just as an employee coming down the aisle discovers the spill, it will be difficult to argue Costco acted unreasonably. It is likely that discovering an accidental spill 20 seconds after it happened will not be considered an unreasonable delay.
What if the Injury Occurs in the Costco Parking Lot?
The duty of providing a reasonably safe premises extends to the Costco parking lot. Costco must make reasonable efforts to keep its parking lots safe for use by customers.
If a customer slips on an icy walkway in the parking lot and suffers a brain injury from hitting their head on the pavement, Costco could be liable for failing to keep its walkways free of ice.
But Costco is typically under no obligation to prevent a customer from backing their truck into another customer’s car while trying to leave the parking lot. Unless Costco did something that contributed to the truck driver’s behavior, it is not likely Costco can be held responsible for the accident.
Steps to Take When You are Injured at Costco
If an injury was caused by an unsafe condition that was not properly attended to by Costco, it is important to try and preserve any evidence showing what Costco did or did not do. Costco is not likely to leave the unsafe conditions uncorrected once someone becomes injured. The injured victim should:
- Get pictures of the accident scene and the injuries sustained
- If there were witnesses, collect their contact information
- Get a medical evaluation as soon as possible – if emergency medical treatment is not necessary
- Report the incident to Costco and get a copy of the written record
- Consider a consultation with a personal injury attorney before speaking with the insurance company representatives for Costco
Why You Might Want to Get Legal Advice
When you get injured at Costco, you are going to have to prove to its insurance company and their lawyers that the store’s failure to keep you safe from harm was unreasonable. You further have to prove that you should not be found partially responsible for causing your own injuries due to your own actions.
The ability to recover damages and the amount of those damages depend on knowing the applicable laws and how to use them to the greatest legal advantage. Your opponents have an incentive to discount your claims. You must have a stronger argument. Consulting a Dallas premises liability attorney, can provide the legal guidance you need to achieve a successful result. Contact Wolf Law PLLC today to find out how we can help you with your case.