Legal Question in Personal Injury in North Carolina

Any NC statutes hold store 100% liable for injuries?

My mother was injured in a Goodwill Store on 12/22/04. She was trying a type of exercise equipment in which you hold onto a single bar for support and your legs move back and forth. The bar she was holding unexpectedly fell forward, thus she fell forward with the bar face first into bed rails. Sustained injuries were broken wrist and facial injuries. Thus far medical bills total around $3,000 and lost wages around $10,000. She began occupational therapy last week and remains out of work due to injuries. She has spoken with attorney's, none which will take her case on a contingency fee. However, they did state that she has a 'valid claim', but didn't explain on what basis. The little information obtained from them was re: contributory negligence in NC and one attorney asked the question 'Did you ask for instructions'? She did not as signs in the store say 'Inspect merchandise before purchasing'. Also, there wasn't a 'open and obvious risk' (products liability statute) for her not to try the equipment. Are there any other factors which they could be considering in support of contributory negligence? Could they be held 100% liable under 'products liability', statutes pertaining to premises liability, or any other statutes? Thanks

Asked on 3/28/05, 9:55 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

John Kirby Law Offices of John M. Kirby
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Re: Any NC statutes hold store 100% liable for injuries?

This case falls in to a peculiar crack. It is not a typical products liability claim because your mother had not purchased the product. The claim would probably be covered by general "negligence" principles. The most anagous cases seem to be those involving falling objects in stores. We need more facts about how this accident occurred; in particular, is it clear that the device was not working properly? If your mother simply mis-used the item, then her claim should be very difficult. If, the device was "defective," then there may be a valid claim, but you would still need to show "negligence" by the store. The negligence would probably consist of a failure to inspect (and/or repair) the item, and to a lesser extent based on a failure to warn (or supervise). The primary concern I have (other than whether there was a defect) is the extent to which the store, which handles used items, has a duty to inspect the items for safety. They can argue that with the volume of items received, they cannot inspect everything, and cannot "guarantee" the safety of the items in the store. This would seem to raise a difficult question. If the product was defective, and if your mother was using it correctly, then I am not nearly as concerned about contributory negligence (assuming she was not aware of the hazard, and was using the item in a normal manner). You may want to contact other lawyers in your area for further assistance. This issue is highly fact-intensive, and an attorney needs all the facts. In order for your mother to win, she must prove the negligence of the store, and avoid a finding of her own negligence. Finally, the store may have "med pay" coverage, which could pay for some of the medical expenses.

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3/29/05, 11:32 pm

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