Shopping malls are collections of retail stores and restaurants. They may be located in the same building or may be in a group of connected buildings.
Shopping malls have their own dedicated parking. In some cases, they may have outdoor seating areas and eating areas in addition to walkways between the buildings or stores.
There are numerous potential hazards within shopping malls which may lead to an accident or injury, which may include:
- Wet floors;
- Cracked or uneven floors or pavement;
- Wrinkled carpeting;
- Malfunctioning escalators;
- Trampling, for example, during Black Friday sales;
- Structural problems;
- Assaults; and
Although there are no specific laws that govern issues of liability when an individual is injured at a shopping mall, the doctrines of negligence and premises liability determine the standard of care a shopping mall owner or store operator owes to their customers.
What Duties Does the Mall Owner Have?
A shopping mall owner has a responsibility, or a duty, to maintain the premises as well as to keep the premises safe for customers and any other individuals who may legally be at the mall, regardless of whether the individual purchases any items from a store. An owner is required to keep the entrances and exits clear from any unreasonable dangers as well as to repair any dangers which may exist.
If an owner is negligent in their duty to maintain the premises and to keep visitors safe, they may be held liable for injuries which are caused by a dangerous condition. For example, if the roof leaks, causing wet floors, an individual could easily slip and fall.
If the owner was aware of the leak and failed to properly repair it or to adequately warn individuals of the danger, they will most likely be liable for damages if an individual falls and is injured.
Who is Responsible if I am Injured at a Shopping Mall?
A mall owner will not be held responsible for every injury that occurs on the premises. In certain cases, an individual store owner may be held responsible if a dangerous condition or cause of the injury was inside of their store.
A mall owner is responsible for maintaining and keeping safe the:
- Entrances and exits;
- Common areas; and
- Parking lots.
If an individual is injured in one of these areas, the mall owner may be held responsible for their injuries. If an individual is injured inside of a store, that store owner may be held liable and not the mall owner.
The leases that store owners sign which allows them to use the space inside the mall may also dictate who is responsible for injuries which occur in the store. For example, the lease may include terms which state that the store owner is responsible for maintaining common areas which are near the entrance to their store.
If this is the case, the store owner will be held responsible if an individual is injured due to a dangerous condition in that particular common area.
What are Some Shopping Mall Accident Statistics?
A shopping mall is often a popular location for Americans to shop and socialize. The Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the United States, has 40 million visitors every year.
Woodfield Mall is the most-visited place in the State of Illinois. With thousands of individuals visiting shopping malls on a daily basis, it is not surprising that individuals are injured at malls on a regular basis.
The accident statistics demonstrate the wide range of injuries that may occur at shopping malls:
- Between 1990 and 2010, there were 11,000 children under the age of 18 treated in emergency rooms for injuries which they sustained from amusement rides located at:
- shopping malls;
- arcades; and
- In 2013, 10 individuals were injured in a mall food court in California when a piece of the food court’s ceiling fell on top of them;
- 73% of injuries that occurred as a result of amusement rides at shopping malls were caused by a young child falling in, against, on, or off the ride, which is often the result of a lack of proper restraints or padding;
- In a Massachusetts mall, one individual died and 27 other individuals were injured by a carbon monoxide leak;
- 10 people were injured at a mall in 2006 when the mall’s Black Friday promotion induced shoppers into a stampede; and
- In a New Jersey Mall, a 2 year old girl had to undergo 15 surgeries to repair her foot after it was crushed by an escalator.
How Can I Prove Fault in a Shopping Mall Liability Claim?
In order for an individual to prove fault in a claim against a shopping mall, the plaintiff is required to show that the owner was negligent by proving the following elements:
- The owner of the mall had a duty to its patrons;
- A dangerous condition existed on the premises;
- The owner of the mall knew about the dangerous condition;
- The owner of the mall did not resolve the dangerous condition nor did they adequately warn patrons about the dangerous condition;
- The plaintiff was injured;
- The dangerous condition was the direct and proximate cause of the injury;
- The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the injury; and
- The plaintiff did not contribute to their own injuries.
It may be helpful to provide an example which illustrates how a plaintiff may prove a mall owner is at fault for an injury they suffered while at the shopping mall. Shopping mall owners, as noted above, have a duty to keep the premises safe from foreseeable risks and dangerous conditions.
Suppose the plaintiff entered the shopping mall and walked to the escalator and as they approached it, they slipped on a puddle in the floor. Suppose the plaintiff fell and broke their hip.
Suppose then that the plaintiff sued the owner of the mall for damages, including medical expenses. The plaintiff learns that the roof of the mall had been leaking and the owner had not fixed the leak because the repair was costly.
Suppose that the owner had previously been placing a sign in that location that warned of a wet floor, but that sign was not present on the day the plaintiff was injured. Suppose also that the plaintiff was healthy and did nothing to contribute to their fall and injury.
In this example, the shopping mall owner is clearly liable because they failed to adequately warn or repair a known dangerous condition. The owner’s negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
Are there Limits on Shopping Mall Liability?
A shopping mall owner is only liable for injuries that are caused by foreseeable risks. There are numerous things that may occur in places such as shopping malls where large groups of individuals gather and spend their time.
An owner is not responsible for keeping the mall patrons safe from dangers which are not foreseeable. Dangerous conditions which are new and have not yet been identified by the mall owner are not foreseeable risks.
In addition, there are some dangerous conditions which are so obvious that individuals should know to avoid them. For example, parking lots are known to be dangerous and every patron should exercise caution when walking through the parking lot to enter the mall.
Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Because a shopping mall is open to the public, it is responsible for providing a relatively safe environment for shoppers. Ensuring that shopping malls are held accountable for failing to fulfill their duty of safety owed to you as a shopper may seem to be an overwhelming task.
If you or someone you love was injured at a shopping mall, a personal injury attorney can help you recover damages for your injuries and losses. Your attorney can represent you in court and help you negotiate a settlement agreement, if possible.