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How not to get sued for personal injury: Some suggestions for mall operators

How not to get sued for personal injury: Some suggestions for mall operators

In an article published on Vice, a blogger wrote: “If capitalism is America's religion, the mall is its church.” And just like in churches, there are rules that one needs to observe when visiting the capitalist meccas also known as malls. These rules may include staying at least six feet away from others, no bringing of firearms, and no pets allowed.

These rules are great, but mall owners and operators must occasionally update their rules and regulations to avoid getting into legal trouble involving mall patrons who may sue for legitimate or bonkers reasons. Here are our suggestions.

Suggestion #1: Filming people falling into a water fountain is not allowed

Yes, this rule seems oddly specific and bizarre, but we still recommend implementing it. You’ll thank us later.

In 2011, Cathy Cruz Marrero fell into a water fountain inside Berkshire Mall in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. She fell because she was texting while walking and was completely unaware that she was about to fall into a mall fountain. This was caught on the mall’s security video footage and then made its way to YouTube.

On one hand, it was embarrassing that her trip-and-fall was caught on video. On the other hand, the video was so low-quality that it was difficult to make out who made the splash. Naturally, Ms. Marrero didn’t want the clip to spread and cause her a lifetime of embarrassment. So she took steps that would achieve the exact opposite of that.

First, Ms. Marrero hired a lawyer because she wanted somebody to be held accountable, ie., the mall. Then, she had herself interviewed on Good Morning America to talk about her embarrassing experience and to plead to the general public not to delight her in her mishap. Of course, this left the general public with no choice but to delight in her mishap.

If only Ms. Marrero had received more sound advice, she would not have been known across America as “Fountain lady.” But alas, she did not. She considered suing the mall because, according to her, the security staff didn’t assist her. Sadly, this was not the last that America would hear of her. In 2012, she was found to have spent thousands of dollars using stolen credit cards.

If only the mall operators implemented a no-filming-falling-people-on-water-fountain policy, Marrero's life would have turned out differently.

Suggestion #2: No feeding of squirrels

Some squirrels may be cute and harmless, but some could inspire unwanted legal drama. Would you rather experience legal drama? We didn’t think so. So impose a rule to ban the feeding of squirrels at mall premises. Alternatively, you may allow other types of furry, nut-loving creatures that are not known to attack humans.

Just a side note: As personal injury attorneys who’ve represented clients who suffered injuries from dog or cat attacks, we’d like to point out that in some cases, pinning blame can be tricky. Hence, the need for a dog/cat bite attack lawyer.

Related reading: Cat bite lawsuits are pretty common — these cat-related lawsuits are not

In the case of Marcy Meckler, her leg was attacked by an unnamed squirrel at the parking lot of Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie, Illinois. She sued the mall in 2006, even though the incident occurred in December 2004. Ms. Meckler blamed the incident on the mall staff whom she said fed the resident squirrels in the parking lot.

Her lawsuit claimed that she suffered from external and internal injuries. She also said she risked future distress because of the squirrel’s antics, which she alleged was encouraged by the mall staff and security personnel, many of whom it seemed were friends to rodents.

Enforcing this rule eliminates the possibility that your establishment could be held fully responsible for the presence of rambunctious rats with a taste for trouble.

Suggestion #3: Caution: Watermelons ahead

Watermelons, though delicious and refreshing to eat on hot summer days, can be a pain to eat. They can also cause serious injuries that no other fruits are capable of.

In 2015, while shopping in Walmart, Henry Walker broke his hip in a watermelon-related incident. He was reaching for one when his foot got caught in a pallet under a box of watermelons. He fell and subsequently suffered hip injuries.

We are semi-serious about imposing this rule and here’s why — the jury awarded $7.5 million in damages to Mr. Walker, proof that Walmart’s watermelons display could have used some refinement. Walmart felt that the amount awarded was excessive. The verdict stood perhaps because surveillance video showed that multiple people tripped over the same allegedly haphazard pallet stack.

In sum, you better lawyer up if you own and operate a shopping center

Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams are personal injury lawyers. We’re the team to call if you want experienced, dedicated attorneys who’ll help you claim damages for your slip and fall accident in Washington State. Call us today.