Toddler Dies After Being Struck by Falling Mirror at Payless
It is a well-established principle of personal injury law that a customer
visiting a business has the right to expect that he or she may visit that
business’s location without being subjected to a risk of injury
by merely being on that business’s property. A recent case from
Georgia will serve to illustrate this principle.
According to local media sources, 2-year-old Ifrah Siddique died in the
early evening hours of March 2nd at a local hospital shortly after she
was struck by a falling full-length mirror at a Payless ShoeSource store
in the Atlanta suburb of Riverdale. Although details of the accident are
unclear at this time, it appears that Ifrah was struck by the mirror while
she was trying on shoes with her mother and neither Ifrah or her mother
had been in physical contact with the mirror immediately prior to the accident.
Liability in this and similar cases arises from the legal doctrines known
as premises liability,
respondeat superior (“let the master answer”), and
res ipsa loquitur (“the thing speaks for itself”). In past cases the Georgia
courts have taken the position that these doctrines should be applied
literally, or “as they are written.” These issues will, in
general, will apply in other jurisdictions and not just in the Georgia courts.
Premises liability is based on the doctrine that the owner, landlord, or
the person having lawful possession of a business or private residence
is responsible for maintaining such a structure in a condition that minimizes
the risk of accidental injury to a customer or a visitor. Should an injury
occur, it is responsibility of the property owner to show that 1) the
cause of the injury could not have been prevented by the owner and/or
2) that the factors responsible for an injury were beyond the control
of the property owner. This is best explained by way of a hypothetical example.
In the case of the accident mentioned above, if the mirror had not been
property anchored to a wall of some other structure then the property
owner would be liable for any injuries sustained when the mirror fell.
If, however, the mirror was dislodged during an earthquake or because
of a nearly explosion, the property owner is not liable because the external
factors that led to the mirror’s fall were clearly beyond the business
In simplest terms, respondeat superior is the doctrine that an employer
is ultimately responsible for the actions of an employee if those actions
lead to an injury to another party. In recent years this doctrine has
been expanded to include franchise business operations, subcontractors,
and even day laborers.
In most cases, the only defense to a
respondeat superior claim is that the superior was unaware of the actions and/or circumstances
that led to an injury and those circumstances were completely beyond the
superior’s control. Since Payless operates its retail outlets as
“company” stores rather than as franchises awarded to different
business entities, it would seem that the company will have considerable
difficulty avoiding a respondeat superior liability claim.
Res Ipsa Loquitur
Res ipsa loquitur is the doctrine that the circumstances of an injury are such that the
physical cause of the injury is sufficient proof that negligence has occurred.
This doctrine has existed since at least the middle of the 19th century
and has been adopted into the common law of every country that has embraced
some form of English civil law.
In the case being considered here, since mirrors are not known to fall
onto customers on anything approaching a regular basis a visitor to a
Payless store would have no reason to expect such an accident to occur.
Thus, a negligence claim based on
res ipsa loquitur will probably be accepted by a court if a civil lawsuit is eventually
filed by the family of Ifrah Siddique.
Personal injury and accident lawyers specialize in business liability cases
The legal issues to be considered before filing a personal injury lawsuit
are far more complex than in the simple situations discussed above. Due
to this complexity, if you or a family member have been injured in a retail
shopping accident, you should arrange a consultation with an accident
and personal injury lawyer to discuss the legal options that may be available
in your case. Since practically all such lawyers offer free initial consultations
to potential clients that they will represent of a contingency fee basis,
financial concerns should not hinder you from seeking legal advice in