Retail store owners, and other types of property owners have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect invitees (e.g. customers) who have entered their property legally from hazardous conditions. Generally, this requires store owners to:

  • Regularly inspect the property for dangerous conditions
  • Warn invitees of dangerous conditions found on the property
  • Take reasonable steps to fix the dangerous condition

While property owners may be held liable for some accidents that occur on their property, they may not be liable for an accident solely because it happened on their property. There are many reasons why a property owner may not be liable for a customer’s slip-and-fall accident and damages, but one of the main ones is the comparative negligence of the alleged victim. The insurance company for the store or property owner may present comparative negligence as a premises liability defense to deny a shopper’s personal injury claim or reduce the amount of damages they receive.

What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence basically means that the alleged victim of an accident is partially or fully responsible for their own injuries. Customer negligence may include:

  • Walking while distracted (e.g. texting, checking emails)
  • Ignoring posted warning signs and failing to pay attention to surroundings
  • Wearing slippery or ill-fitting shoes, failing to tie shoes, or wearing loose/long clothing
  • Engaging in horseplay and/or running/jumping
  • Failing to observe open and obvious dangers that a reasonable person would have seen
  • Shopping while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Failing to use handrails and other safety measures provided by the store

How will comparative negligence impact my case?

The store’s insurer may argue that the store guest caused their own accident and injuries by engaging in one or more of the above activities. However, New York is a ‘pure comparative negligence’ state, meaning the alleged victim can still recover a portion of their damages if they are partially liable. For example, a person who is found 20 percent negligent for their slip-and-fall will still recover $80,000 out of the $100,000 awarded to them by the jury.

For more information on how comparative negligence could affect your slip-and-fall case, you may want to consider consulting with a personal injury attorney.