Falling in Memphis
by Ron Davis
An elderly woman who blames existing “hazardous conditions” for the injuries she suffered at a Memphis-area shopping center has won nothing but the sympathy of the courts in her resulting lawsuit.
The woman, who was 75 years old at the time of her injuries, slipped and fell while shopping at a Marshalls store located at the shopping center. She claimed that her fall resulted from stepping on an improperly hung garment. That garment was a full-length black dress that was in a section of blouses arrayed on a four-foot-high rack. She added that because of that length of the dress on such a short rack, the dress bottom was lying partially on the floor, but not extending far enough beyond the other clothes on the rack to allow her to spot it.
She also said that the fabric of the dress was “silky,” so that when she stepped on it while circling the rack, she feet slipped out from under her. She admitted, however, that she did not know how long the dress had been hanging on the rack, nor did she ask anyone how long it had been there. But she did point out that a Marshalls employee moved the dress immediately after her fall.
She said as a result of her fall, she sustained severe and painful permanent injuries to her leg and hip, as well as crippling pain, mental suffering, and “a loss of enjoyment of life.” She consequently sued Marshalls, claiming that it was liable for her injuries.
In response, Marshalls argued that the injured woman had not demonstrated that its employees had sufficient notice of the hazardous condition that resulted in her fall.
In ruling in favor of Marshalls, a Tennessee court explained, “We are not insensitive to this woman’s injuries, but she has presented no evidence that improperly hung garments creating a hazardous condition are a common occurrence at Marshalls such that Marshalls had constructive notice of a hazardous condition in this case. She simply slipped on an improperly hung garment that was not visible from the aisles, and she did not state that she observed other garments improperly hung on racks at Marshalls either on the day of her fall or at any other time.” (Whitley v. Marshalls of Ma., Inc., 2006 WL 18650035 [Tenn.Ct.App.])
Decision: July 2006
Published: July 2006