Can retailers be held liable for Black Friday violence?

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2019 | Premises Liability

Many retailers barely waited until Halloween was over to begin offering holiday deals. However, for many people, the Christmas shopping season doesn’t truly begin until the official “Black Friday” on the day after Thanksgiving.

Brick-and-mortar stores and shopping centers aren’t as crowded as they used to be on Black Friday (or at any time) thanks to online shopping. Now, people can take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts from the comfort of their sofa or wherever they choose.

However, if you’re one of those folks who enjoys the excitement of joining the crowds at the local Walmart, Best Buy or Target to find a great deal on the latest smart TV, you certainly don’t plan on being shot, stabbed or trampled. While retailers can’t control the actions of their customers who think that getting the last MacBook Air is worth punching someone in the face, they do have a responsibility to control crowds and protect their customers’ safety.

In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides crowd control guidelines for retailers. The agency issued those a year after a Walmart employee was fatally trampled by Black Friday shoppers in 2008. Interestingly, according to the analytics website, over 57% of Black Friday incidents have occurred in Walmart stores.

Just as retailers can sometimes be held liable for injuries caused by falling merchandise, wet floors and other hazards, they may also be liable if they don’t provide adequate security on days they know will be extremely busy. Security personnel aren’t just there to prevent acts of violence but also crimes like theft. It can be all to easy to lift a wallet or phone from a distracted shopper in the middle of a crowd.

If you suffer an injury or are the victim of a crime that you believe a retailer or other property owner could or should have prevented, it’s wise to seek the advice of an attorney with experience in premises liability cases.

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