If an object falls on while you are a store, you may be able to sue for your injuries.
This article focuses on falling merchandise accident cases in Florida. Each state has different laws.
I wrote a separate article on claims for injuries from a collapsed ceiling, or an object that falls off or through a ceiling in Florida.
Lady Gets $442,000 after Falling Metal Rack at Florida Home Depot Struck Her
Check out a case where a jury awarded a woman $442,000 for a herniated disc and shoulder surgery. She had a 3 level cervical (neck) fusion.
She was struck by a falling metal rug rack at a Home Depot. $370,000 of the verdict was for pain and suffering.
The case was in Indian River County, Florida. The case is Simone v Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. This is a 2008 verdict.
Will a Florida store admit that its employees were negligent in allowing the merchandise to hit you?
- Past Lost Income
- Future lost income reduced to present value
- Past medical expenses and future medical expenses
- Replacement value of lost personal property (e.g. damage to your car, etc.)
- Funeral expenses
- Reimbursement for mileage to and from medical appointments
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring or Disfigurement
- Mental anguish
- Loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.
- Punitive Damages (in rare cases)
Example where store admits negligence but fights causation and damages
While shopping in a Walmart, you are struck in the back by an ornamental pumpkin. The pumpkin weighed 8.4 ounces and was “squishy.”
Wal-Mart admits that its employees committed a negligent act but strongly contests causation and damages.
After a three-week trial, the jury returns a zero-damages verdict, finding that Wal-Mart was not the legal cause of your claimed loss, injury, or damages.
These are the facts from a real case against Walmart. Schwartz v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 155 So. 3d 471 – Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 5th Dist. 2015
Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal decided this case.
Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal is comprised of Hernando, Lake, Marion, Citrus and Sumter Counties, Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia Counties, Orange and Osceola Counties, Brevard and Seminole Counties.
In that case, Coral Gables lawyers represented the injured customer. Greenberg Traurig, P.A. in Miami represented Wal-mart Stores, Inc.
If the jury finds that the store was negligent but it did not cause your injury, are you entitled to get paid for your initial medical evaluation after the accident?
In the above Walmart case, the appeals court ruled that it was OK that the jury found that the shopper’s injury was not related to the fall and award no money for the initial treatment.
Learn about Walmart accident claims in Florida.
What does a person have to prove to win on a negligence claim after being struck by merchandise?
To win on a negligence claim, a customer has to prove four elements: duty of care, breach of that duty, causation, and damages.
Causation is an essential element of negligence, and an injured person is entitled to recover only for injury, loss, or damage caused by a store’s negligence.
The existence of a duty of care is generally a question of law to be determined by the judge, while breach, causation, and damages are generally questions to be decided by the jury.
If a store customer presents a good amount of evidence suggesting that she sustained an injury and damages as a result of an object striking her, does the store owe her money?
Maybe. The store can counter with expert testimony from, among others, a biomedical engineer who opines that the degree of force exerted when the merchandise struck you was “well below the injury producing threshold.”
It depends whether the jury believes your expert, or the store’s expert.
Can you get your bills paid even if jury finds you weren’t injured from falling merchandise?
The general rule is that even when a jury finds that a person was not injured as a result of the subject accident, the injured person is still entitled to recover those expenses incurred for medical examination and diagnostic testing reasonably necessary to determine whether the incident caused injuries.
Lady Sues Sports Authority; Claims Camping Stove Fell on Her
In that case, Lila Sparks-Book was shopping with her husband at The Sports Authority on August 23, 1992.
There, a camping stove was accidentally knocked off a shelf by an employee. It landed on Sparks-Book’s head. She sued, along with her husband who sued for loss of consortium.
At the end of the trial, the jury answered “No” to the question:
“Was the negligence on the part of Defendant, The Sports Authority, Inc. the legal cause of any loss, injury or damage to Plaintiff Lila Sparks-Book?”
Appeals Court says customer can recover for diagnostic testing medical bills
However, the appeals court said that the injured customer was entitled to recover for those medical expenses incurred for any diagnostic testing which was reasonably necessary to determine whether the accident caused her injuries.1
It was undisputed that paramedics were called to the scene of the accident and that Sparks-Book was transported to an emergency room. There, x-rays were taken of Sparks-Book’s jaw, shoulder, and neck.
The court allowed a new trial on the question of the injured customer’s damages. This case is Sparks-Book v. Sports Auth., Inc., 699 So.2d 767, 768 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997).
Are there exceptions to this rule that allow a jury to return a zero-damages verdict, despite the medical expenses incurred for diagnostic testing?
Exceptions to this rule allow a jury to return a zero-damages verdict, despite the medical expenses incurred for diagnostic testing, such as “when sufficient evidence is presented at trial regarding certain factors, including but not limited to pre-existing injuries with extensive treatments, not being honest with the treating physicians, video tapes that show actual physical capabilities, and expert medical opinions which conflict as to causation.2
If a store presents expert testimony from a biomedical engineer that sufficiently supports the conclusion that the impact could not have caused any injury to a customer, and the jury awards nothing, will the court agree?
Maybe. This is considered an exception to the above-stated general rule.
How do you know if the store’s negligence caused you to get struck by merchandise?
Whether a store is at fault for the accident depends upon whether what you were doing at the time you were struck was reasonable.
If you were reaching for an object that was within reach and it fell, this helps your case. If you were standing on your “tippy toes” or jumping to get a product on the shelve, then this hurts your case.
A store may argue that you should have known that the object was loose and was going to fall. The store may say that you should have asked for help instead of trying to grab the item without assistance that was high on the shelf.
 See Blanford v. Polk County, 410 So.2d 667, 669 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982); see also Noralyn O. Harlow, annotation, Recoverability from tortfeasor of cost of diagnostic examinations absent proof of actual bodily injury, 46 A.L.R.4th 1151 (1986)
Did a store’s negligence cause an object to strike and hurt you? Were you hurt in another type of accident or somewhere else?
See Our Settlements
Check out some of the many Florida injury cases that we have settled, including but not limited to slip or trip and falls, drunk driving (DUI) accidents, cruise ship accidents, wrongful death and much more.
I want to represent you!
My Miami law firm represents people anywhere in Florida if someone’s carelessness caused their injuries in slip, trip and falls, cruise ship or boat accidents, accidents at an apartment complex, condo building or home, wrongful death and many other types of accidents.
I want to represent you if you were hurt in an accident in Florida, on a cruise ship or boat. If you live in Florida but were injured in another state we may also be able to represent you.
Call Us Now!
Call us now at (888) 594-3577 to find out for FREE if we can represent you. We answer calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.