A jury in Northeast Ohio recently awarded $1.3 million to a woman who was injured after being struck by an electronic grocery cart outside a Giant Eagle grocery store. According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, plaintiff was struck in 2012 when a fellow customer lost control of the cart she was using to get around the store.
Plaintiff, then 71-years-old, was hit by the cart and tossed about four feet. She landed against a display shelf, striking her head and causing her to suffer head and neck injuries.
In a personal injury lawsuit she filed two years later, plaintiff accused the store of not giving customers an adequate amount of instruction on how to use these motorized carts, which are offered to mobility-impaired customers free-of-charge. The lawsuit alleges the company displayed a long history of corporate negligence specifically with regard to these motorized carts. In other words, this was not a one-time, freak accident that the company couldn’t have anticipated. In fact, plaintiffs alleged, this hazard was reasonably foreseeable based in large part on the fact there were nearly 120 similar accidents involving motorized carts at the chain’s stores throughout the Northeast.
The complaint asserted the company knew, either because of actual knowledge or through knowledge that was implied from the circumstances and facts, that by allowing customers to be entrusted with the operation of these motorized vehicles without any experience, training or instruction, it was foreseeable that innocent, third-party bystanders were going to be placed at unreasonable risk of injury.
The company denied all allegations and refused to settle the case, which is why the case went on to trial. Jurors not only determined the grocery store chain was negligent, they awarded $120,000 in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages. Compensatory damages are intended to make the company whole again, while punitive damage are intended to penalize defendant/ deter such action in the future.
The Plain Dealer did not indicate whether the company had any plans to appeal the verdict, though our injury lawyers would speculate that it’s likely.
Shopping cart injuries in general are surprisingly common, though the vast majority of these incidents involve young children. The New York Times reported in 2014 on a study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics that detailed how 66 children every single day were treated in hospital emergency rooms for shopping cart injuries. That was between 1990 and 2011. The vast majority of those children were under the age of 4 who fell out of the cart. Nine out of 10 of these injuries were wounds to the head. Other incidents included:
- Carts tipping over;
- Being run over by a cart;
- Falling over a cart;
- Becoming entrapped in a cart.
Over the course of two decades, nearly 17,000 children suffered shopping cart injuries that were serious enough to warrant their admission to a hospital.
In 2004, the shopping cart manufacturing industry introduced voluntary safety standards. However, The New York Times reported the number of injuries hasn’t gone down since then.
Again, these figures only refer to children injured by non-motorized carts. Although it doesn’t seem there are any long-term studies on motorized shopping cart injuries, this certainly isn’t the first time it’s happened. Wal-Mart was sued last year by a woman who alleges a motorized shopping cart machine near the entrance of the store pushed a line of carts into her, causing her to be injured. She’s seeking more than $50,000 in damage.
In these cases, showing that the company was aware of a potential safety issue or should have anticipated it will be key to success.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Cleveland woman wins $1.3 million lawsuit against Giant Eagle for motorized shopping cart injury, Oct. 7, 2016, By John Harper, Cleveland.com
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