As a business owner, you understand the importance of providing a safe environment for your customers. You also realize that accidents can happen, and you have potential liability if someone is injured on your property.
But what if horseplay was a contributing factor in your customer’s injury? Are you still liable?
Comparative negligence is the key defense
Business owners have a duty of care towards their customers, which means they are responsible for maintaining a safe environment. For example, if a customer slips and falls on your property due to a condition you were aware of or should have been aware of, you could be held responsible for their injuries.
The situation becomes more complicated if the customer was engaged in horseplay or other boisterous behavior when they were injured. This is true even when you may still be partially responsible. For example, two customers are racing through the aisles when one trips on a loose tile and is injured when they hit the floor.
You may have some responsibility for the accident due to the loose tile, but the customer’s own actions may have also significantly contributed to their accident and injuries.
In that event, the law of comparative negligence considers the degree to which the injured party contributed to their own injury. New York follows a pure comparative negligence system; the injured party could still recover damages even if they were 99% at fault. However, their compensation would be reduced by their percentage of fault.
Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey have a modified comparative negligence system in which the injured party can only recover damages if they were less than 51% at fault. West Virginia sets the limit at 50% fault. Therefore, the outcome of a premise’s liability case can significantly vary depending on the specifics of the incident and where it occurred.
It’s crucial to ensure your property is well-maintained and free from hazards. Rules regarding customers’ boisterous and risky behavior should also be clearly stated and enforced.
If you are in a situation where you are being sued for a customer’s injury, experienced legal guidance can help you assert a solid defense.