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Visiting the Neighborhood Grocer: Your Right to Reasonable Safety in a Retail Store During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Visiting the Neighborhood Grocer:Your Right to Reasonable Safety in a Retail Store During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Misinformation abounds as the United States enters into the third month of addressing the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a considerable segment of the nation operates on “stay at home” directives issued by state and local units of government, life as we’ve known it has changed markedly but it has not come to a grinding halt by any means. People from all walks of life are able to access essential services like medical appointments, jobs away from home in some instances, and grocery shopping. Even though these are permissible activities during a stay at home mandate, they are not risk free when it comes to the possibility of COVID-19 transmission. With that in mind, it’s important that you understand your responsibilities as a citizen when it comes to being out in public during the COVID-19 outbreak. Moreover, you need to understand your right to be reasonably safe when shopping at a necessary retail outlet like a grocery store during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Basic Legal Responsibility of a Store Owner to Keep You Safe

The legal principle establishing safety standards for businesses technically is known as “premises liability.” Premises liability is defined as a legal obligation by a party in control of a property to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same set of circumstances.

The failure to exercise that level of reasonable care renders the store or other type of business owner potentially responsible for any injuries you sustain as a result of that breach of duty. A common example used to illustrate this duty of a business is spilled milk in an aisle at a grocery store. If a store fails to clean up the spill in a reasonable time and you slip and fall, the store can bear responsibility for your injuries.

Premises Liability in the Era of COVID-19

A sad reality associated with the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States is the fact that it is difficult to discern who does and doesn’t have the virus. Some percentage of individuals that contract the virus never exhibit symptoms and if they do, those symptoms are very mild. Infected, these individuals unknowingly go about their lives infecting others without even knowing it.

In addition, when historians look back on the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, a general consensus is apt to be that initially the response of the federal government to the pandemic was botched. This particularly is the case when it comes to initiating a proper testing protocol or program to identify people who have the infection.

Because of these factors, there is a considerable level of uncertainty as to who may be infected and how to respond to a virus that is lurking in the shadows to a fairly significant degree. With that said, a retail establishment like a grocery store has a long-established legal obligation to ensure that its premises are in a reasonably safe condition. A grocery store need not be perfectly safe, but reasonably safe.

Trader Joe’s and the Reasonable Safety of Customers

Trader Joe’s has over 500 grocery stores in 42 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. In the past week, two Trader Joe’s stores were temporarily shut down when each location had an employee test positive for the coronavirus. Now that testing is slowly becoming more available, we are likely to see more employees of essential businesses like grocery markets receive positive test results. There is no contention at this time that a customer of either of these markets contracted COVID-19 from these or any other Trader Joe’s market location.

In temporarily closing the stores, Trader Joe’s embarked on a course of deep cleaning and sanitation of the premises. In contemplating the doctrine of premises liability, this type of action is likely to be considered a reasonable, fundamental step a store needs to take to protect its customers (and workers).

If you have a question about your legal rights after you or a loved on contracted COVID-19 at business establishment, a Doan Law Firm personal injury lawyer is available to evaluate your case and answer your questions through a no-cost initial consultation. A nationwide law practice, you can arrange an initial consultation any time of the day or night by calling us at (800) 349-0000. The Doan Law Firm makes at attorney fee promise to you. We charge no fee unless we win for you.

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