The Oregon Supreme Court recently issued an opinion that clarifies the challenges a customer faces in bringing an injury claim against a retailer.
In this case, the Plaintiff was injured by some merchadise that fell from its display, and injured the Plaintiff. The injured customer alleged that the store was negligent in stocking the product in a way that was likely to cause injury. However, the retailer fought back, claiming that the Plaintiff failed to produce any evidence that the retailer knew or should have known about the dangerous condition posed by the merchandise.
Plaintiff argued that the retailer was negligent due to a legal rule referred to as res ipsa loquitor. This term means "the thing itself speaks." In the legal sense, this doctrine means that a Plaintiff can prove negligence without having to show that the Defendant did something careless, but can prove the Defendant was negligent just by the way the accident controlled. The case many law students read about involves a large keg of beer falling out of the upper stories of a brewery. The facts show that the defendant, or its employees must somehow be negligent, or how else would a keg fall out of a brewery window? It's about control.
In this case, the Supreme Court reviewed the law regarding storekeeper or retailer negligence. The store keeper must acutally know of the hazard, or the circumstances must show that the store keeper should have known about the dangerous condition. The Court went on to find that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor did not apply to this case, because the defendant did not have sole and exlusive control of the merchandise on the shelf. The Court agreed with the Defendnat that other customers may have moved the merchandise, and caused the dangerous condition.
These cases present challenges, and if you have questions about an injury at a retailer, or on someone else's property, call us at 503-325-8600. We can help you decide whehter and how to approach these kinds of cases.