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!”