Anytime a patron of a store lawfully enters that commercial property, he or she has a right to expect the business – and its agents – will act with reasonable care to ensure the site will be kept in reasonably safe condition. That includes making sure shelves are safely stacked, aisles are clear of debris and substances, lighting is adequate, and entrances stairways, walkways and parking lots are in good condition.
It also means employees must act with reasonable care when carrying out their jobs.
When this does not happen, it’s a form of premises liability. That’s what is alleged in the recent Portland case of Sayed v. Wal-Mart, in which a man says he was strapping his infant son into the front of a shopping cart when an employee of the store negligently rammed a line of shopping carts into his back.
The lawsuits does not allege the child was injured. However, plaintiff asserts he suffered injuries to his back that required hospitalization and ongoing medical treatment. He seeks damages against defendant for those costs, as well as pain and suffering and mental anguish, loss of earnings, loss of earnings capacity and loss of life enjoyment.
There is no indication the employee intended to hurt the patron. Rather, it seems to be simply an accident. But that doesn’t change the fact plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of worker’s conduct and through no apparent fault of his own. (Even if he did share some of the blame, comparative negligence is not a bar to injury claims in Maine.)
This is one example of how a company/employer can be held responsible for actions of workers. The legal theory on which this is founded is called respondeat superior. This is Latin for “let the superior answer.” However, the rule is only applicable if the worker was acting within the course and scope of employment.
That means generally, if a worker was doing his or her job, carrying out the company’s business or otherwise acting on the employer’s behalf at the time injury took place, the employer can likely be held liable.
An exception comes into play when it’s determined employees acted either out of entirely personal motives or independently. So for example, if this worker had intentionally rammed the shopper, the store might not be liable.
The purpose of the rule is to hold companies responsible for the cost of doing business, and that includes worker misconduct or carelessness. Intentional injuries or those resulting from a worker doing something that is not related to his or her job are not likely to result in employer liability.
Often in these cases, it’s not necessary to show employer knew employee might cause harm or even that the company clearly did anything wrong. What must be shown is the injury resulted from employee’s actions and that employee was acting in the course and scope of employment.
Alternatively, a person injured by an employee could allege the company was negligent in hiring or retention of that employee, which is to say the company did act wrongly. This pertains to the idea that companies hire or keep a worker even after learning he or she poses a possible danger.
An example might be a nursing home that hired a person previously convicted of a violent criminal act. If that person goes on to harm one of the vulnerable residents, the victim or his representatives could pursue action against the facility on the theory of negligent hiring or retention.
If you injured while patronizing business or commercial property, contact our experienced Portland injury lawyers to learn more about your options to pursue compensation.
Contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Maine man sues Wal-Mart after employee allegedly rammed him with carts, April 1, 2015, By Darren Fishell, Bangor Daily News