Shoppers have been injured as they shop for milk, or jeans or even just
by entering the store. It is an unfortunate, and erroneous, belief that,
if a shopper is injured while shopping in Colorado, the shopper will be
compensated for those injuries by the store. In fact, Colorado’s
law only allows shoppers to be compensated for injuries under the most
limited circumstances—no matter how serious the fall injury is.
Many conditions and circumstances can give rise to shoppers being injured
at a store. The most common injury occurs when a shopper slips and falls
on something liquid or slippery that spilled on the floor of a grocery
store. But injuries have also occurred when the shopper trips and falls
on hazards such as an “invisible” hangar that may have fallen
from the clothes rack and onto the floor. Each winter, many shoppers in
Colorado are injured going to, or from, a store with slippery sidewalks
or parking lots.
In order to recover compensation for a shopping injury, the shopper must
prove that the store “actually knew about a danger on the property”
or that the danger was of a type that, using reasonable care, the store
should have known of it. In the case of spilled liquid on the floor of
the store, if a shopper falls on that spill before the store employee
could reasonably get to the spill to clean it up, the shopper will
not be compensated for the fall injury.
Slick sidewalks and parking lots present hazards to many shoppers and a
lot of shoppers fall—sometimes resulting in serious injuries—as
a result of slippery entrances to stores. The law says that it is the
“landowner,” not the store, is responsible for the reasonable
safety of customers using sidewalks or parking lots. Retail stores rarely
own their buildings, or the property their store or parking lot sits on.
The stores rent their buildings and parking lots, thus relying on their
landlords to keep the buildings and entrances to the buildings in reasonably
safe condition when there is snow or ice. Those landlords will hire snow
removal contractors to plow the parking lots and entrances to the stores,
and to salt or sand the icy buildups shoppers might encounter on the way
into the stores.
In order for a shopper to recover compensation for a fall injury on ice
or snow at entrances to the store, the shopper has to prove that the landlord
of the property actually knew about the snow or ice danger on the property,
or would have known about it if the landlord had used “reasonable
care. “ But that is not enough. The shopper also has to prove that
the landlord failed to use “reasonable care” to protect against
the danger of the ice and snow at the entrances of the store. In shopper
injury cases, Colorado courts have held that it is “unreasonable”
to expect landlords to remove ice or snow immediately as it lands or forms
on sidewalks or pavement—even if a shopper was seriously injured
on it. Furthermore, courts have held that a store, or a landlord of a
store, cannot guarantee snow- or ice-free parking lots or sidewalks for
shoppers in Colorado. These courts have said that everyone living in Colorado
knows about the dangers of ice and snow during the winter and no store
can be expected to keep its premises completely clear of those substances
during the winter.
If it seems as though the Colorado law puts the burden on shoppers to watch
out for dangers or hazards at stores—that would be a correct conclusion.
In fact, the law says that a shopper is negligent herself if she is not
looking out for slippery substances on store floors, or hazards on store
floors, or chooses to shop when there is snow or ice that could be a danger
while entering or leaving the store.
Shoppers from other states who are injured in Colorado are frequently shocked
to learn how limited are the avenues of recovery for shopper fall injuries
in Colorado as compared to their home states. Indeed, in Colorado each
store should truthfully declare with signs that clearly say: “Shoppers:
Shop at Your Own Risk!”