Home Improvement Stores and Customer Injuries?

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Are Home Improvement Stores Liable For Your Injuries?

Approximately 43 million people will attempt to tackle a home improvement project this year. According to the Home Safety Council, one in five ambitious folks will be injured. Do-it-Yourself Projects That Lead to the Most ER Visits, Consumer Reports. 

Many “big box” stores and other retailers attract people to their locations with the promise of saving money and enjoying the satisfaction of doing it on your own. However, store injuries to do it yourselfers can occur before a project begins. One customer injured at such an Illinois store was Anthony Pullia. He sought compensation for his injuries. The Illinois Appellate Court described the basis for the store’s liability.

Have you faced an injury while shopping at a home improvement store? Don’t navigate the complexities of liability and compensation alone. If you’re in Chicago or the surrounding areas, let the Blumenshine Law Group advocate for your rights. Contact us now at (312)766-1000 or email [email protected] for a free consultation. Protect your rights and secure the compensation you deserve.

Customer loses finger retrieving goods

Mr. Pullia set out to buy posts at a local home improvement store for a backyard fence he was building. At the store, the posts hung from racks attached to a wall in the self-serve section of the store. The posts Mr. Pullia wanted were just out of his reach. A store employee said he would help Mr. Pullia “in a minute”, but after 20 minutes of waiting, no employee appeared to assist. While attempting to get the posts himself, Mr. Pullia stepped onto a lower ledge and held onto the rack’s face plate for support. Using his other hand, he removed the desired fence posts from the rack and placed them on the floor. Mr. Pullia then turned and began to step off the rack arm when he felt his wedding ring caught on the rack face plate. He was unable to stop his downward momentum, and his finger was completely severed at the knuckle.

Questions for the court included: Did the home improvement store subject Mr. Pullia to an unreasonable risk of harm? Is it reasonable to expect that a customer might try to climb the rack to retrieve goods in the self-service section? Did the home improvement store do anything to prevent customers like Mr. Pullia from being injured at their place of business?

Responsibility to Keep Premises Safe

Businesses have a responsibility to keep their premises safe. (Illinois Compiled Status) 740 ILCS 130/2. Generally, the land owner (or store) in Illinois must ensure the store is reasonably safe for customers. Stores and other businesses that encourage customers to put themselves at risk of serious injury without proper warnings need to adapt so that disabling injuries while shopping, like Mr. Pullia’s, do not happen to others.

The court ruled that the home improvement store knew (or should have known) that displaying merchandise beyond the reach of customers of ordinary height subjects them to an unreasonable risk of harm. Displaying merchandise in such a manner encourages the self-helper to step on lower shelves to reach goods on the upper shelves. Store owners who desire to stack merchandise vertically to increase profits should be liable for a customer’s injury resulting from the practice.

Providing an accessible shelf of goods encourages self-service customers to step up to retrieve those products. Also, the store should have expected that self-service customers who want to purchase goods just beyond their reach might try to find other ways to grab items on their own and that those customers might not realize how much danger they are subjecting themselves to. Finally, the court determined that the store failed to do enough to warn or protect customers against the danger of stepping onto the racks. A simple sign or barricade could have prevented the mishap.

The lesson is that businesses have an obligation to anticipate and warn against foreseeable dangerous conditions.

If you’ve been injured at a home improvement store or DIY store, whether you live in Chicago or the suburbs, our legal representation can help you. Call or text the Blumenshine Law Group at (312)766-1000 or email [email protected] for a free consultation.

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