Understanding Supermarket Injuries

When supermarkets do not maintain their shopping aisles properly, customer injuries are almost inevitable. In 2007, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handled a case called Sheehan v. Roche Brothers Supermarkets, Inc. In this precedent-setting trial, the Court determined a new standard for liability in supermarket injury cases. Liability in supermarket slip-and-fall accidents is now determined by
the “mode of operation” approach.

The Mode of Operation Approach

The mode of operation approach eliminates the traditional burden of proof for plaintiffs and creates new standards of care for supermarkets. Essentially, if a supermarket knows a dangerous condition is “reasonably foreseeable,” they must operate accordingly to prevent the danger. If the area in front of the freezer aisle is always wet, for example, simply putting a “wet floor” sign would not be enough. Instead, the supermarket would need to install an anti-slip mat and/or check the floor for safety on a regular basis.

Before the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling, the injured consumer was required to prove that the supermarket had “actual knowledge” of the condition that caused the harm. To return to our previous example, the supermarket would only be found liable if they knew the area in front of the freezer was wet at the exact time of the accident and failed to clean it up that particular time.

To recover damages, the plaintiff would need to prove the dangerous condition existed long enough for the owner to remedy it. Under the new approach, however, the plaintiff can claim that runoff from the freezer would create a foreseeably dangerous condition. In this case, the argument is not whether or not the store notified or warned customers of a wet floor, but whether or not it took reasonable steps to anticipate and prevent slip-and-fall accidents. With this Supreme Judicial Court precedent, it is no longer enough for the supermarket to claim they did not have specific knowledge that the floor was wet at the exact moment when the customer slipped and fell.

If you are filing a supermarket injury claim, taking pictures of the defective area is extremely valuable. Having witnesses will also help your case.

Our attorneys at the Law Office of Steven R. Whitman can help you investigate your accident and determine the foreseeable safety of the area where you slipped and fell.

Call us at (617) 227-8118 or contact us online to get started with a free case evaluation.


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