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Black Friday Sales Gone Wrong?
The Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday weekend are upon us once again. Most Americans are ready to enjoy a home-cooked meal, the company of family and friends, and the best shopping deals of the year.
Thanksgiving weekend abounds with bargains and discounts at the local malls, big box stores, department stores, and even local small businesses. Black Friday, which always occurs the day after Thanksgiving, is a day that inherently results in dangerous shopping conditions, crowded stores and parking lots, and shoppers who sometimes leave their common sense at home. Countless consumers wait all year for this day to purchase certain items when prices fall to their lowest. Each year seems to bring even more bargains and discounts, and the Black Friday chaos only grows.
Who Is Liable For My Black Friday Injuries?
Whether you are a store employee or a customer after a deal, you are not the only one who suffers a Black Friday injury. The first step in exercising your legal rights is determining who you may be able to hold liable for your injuries. With so many potentially dangerous situations you could find yourself in while shopping on this “holiday,” you may want to consider shopping from the warmth and safety of your home computer. Venturing out for that coveted item may result in you needing an experienced injury attorney in California. Some of the parties who could potentially be liable for Black Friday shopping accidents include:
- Store owners
- Retail companies
- Other shoppers
- Manufacturers of consumer products
Can You Sue After A Black Friday Injury?
Doorbusters are synonymous with Black Friday. These extreme deals bring excited and sometimes overzealous shoppers to retail stores early to be at the front of the line. The closer you are to the front and the harder you fight to get in, the higher the chances that you will get the sale item you want. In the past, some customers have become vicious and violent, going to any lengths to get what they came for. This includes reckless conduct that has the potential to injure others.
Unfortunately, this desperate behavior has caused other shoppers to suffer:
- Crush injuries
If you sustain an injury at a Black Friday sale or any other shopping excursion, you have the right to file a legal claim against the person or party responsible for your injuries.
Some Of The Worst Black Friday Incidents in the United States
An article in the New York Post in 2020 listed some of the worst reported Black Friday incidents.
- 2012 – Over a parking space, two persons in Tallahassee, Florida, were shot. To make matters worse, the victims were never able to enter the mall in time for Black Friday deals.
- 2016 – In the parking lot of a mall in South Jersey, two persons were shot. One passed away, while the other was hurt.
- 2018 – A man was shot at a mall in Memphis, Tennessee, after checking out an “attractive woman.” He was knocked unconscious before getting shot by the woman’s partner outside the mall. Then an overexcited bystander took out his own firearm and started shooting, though it was unclear if the man was shooting into the air or at the brawlers.
In a comprehensive report by the Hustle in 2019 detailing the data behind the phenomenon, 69% of Black Friday incidents happen inside retail stores, where shoppers fight for limited supplies of goods. Roughly 20% occur at the store entrance as crowds pour through the doors, while 11% take place outside, where customers either fight for parking spaces or drive on the roads tired after a long day of shopping.
The nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, accounted for a whopping 70% of all reported Black Friday incidents. Among US retailers, Walmart received 3.4% of Black Friday foot traffic in 2018, nearly double its next competitor, Target (1.8%). Five other stores (Kohl’s, JCPenney, Toys “R” Us, Target, and Sears) reported more than 1 death or injury; the rest were isolated.
How Many Black Friday Deaths And Injuries Were Reported?
Black Friday Death Count, a site that scrapes Black Friday-related reports worldwide, stated that as of 2021, there have been 17 deaths and 125 injuries since 2006. While this may not seem like a lot, remember that many more Black Friday incidents are likely unreported every year.
The Roots Of Black Friday Brawls And Chaos
The conventional Black Friday sale is complete with a stampede of a multitude of impatient adrenaline-high consumers waiting for the doors of a store to open. Like bulls in a bullpen, they are prepared to get what they came for at any price, sometimes including fighting, stabbing, or even shooting other customers. Other shoppers have fallen asleep while driving at the end of their long day of Black Friday deals, presumably from being up since before the sun looking for the best bargains.
For example, the Tandel family of San Bruno was traveling home from the Gilroy outlet stores in their gold Lexus SUV after an all-night Black Friday shopping trip when tragedy struck. Nisha Tandel was planning a January wedding. Her father, Arvind Tandel, 48, presumably nodded off at the wheel while driving the family home. He drove into a parked squad car on the side of Highway 101 in Palo Alto. Nisha, 24, and her 20-year-old sister TaSheetal Tandel were killed in the tragic car accident. Arvind’s wife, Yogita Tandel, 34, another daughter, Payal Tandel, 22, and another unnamed 12-year-old daughter were all injured.
Imagine a crowd you are a part of lining up early in front of a retail store for Black Friday sales. What would turn this crowd into a mob? You may even get in a fight while casually doing your Black Friday shopping. What worth is the item you were fighting for?
According to the Hustle report stated above, Professor Sharron Lennon of Indiana University surveyed hundreds of Black Friday shoppers and concluded that misbehavior commonly seen during the event, such as rushing through the door or fighting over a toy car, stems from “feelings of inequality.”
Generally, we expect an “equitable” transaction every time we go to a store—we hand over money expecting the store to hand over an item. This civility is completely lost on Black Friday, as amazing deals promised can only be obtained through an often unreasonable and unfair process. The man who hits an elderly woman in the face, for instance, wins the hot Christmas toy instead of the woman who stood in line for two hours in the freezing weather.
The 5 Most Common Reasons To Call A California Injury Attorney After Black Friday Shopping Accidents
No other shopping day compares to the hysteria of Black Friday. Shoppers are willing to leave their common sense behind for one day each year in hopes of saving some of their hard-earned money on Christmas presents and the items they think they need. Sadly, the reality is that the injuries victims can sustain on this iconic day can last for a lifetime.
Here are the five most common reasons to call an injury lawyer in California after a Black Friday shopping mishap:
1. Brawls Over Parking Spots – Beatings, Broken Bones, Concussions
On Black Friday, the focus is not on safe driving and being aware of others in parking lots. Instead, shoppers focus on getting the best bargains available from multiple stores at whatever cost. In 2016, at least three shoppers were injured while in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio. One was a man who simply attempted to come to the aid of another consumer who was being beaten in the parking lot. Sadly, he was shot and killed.
Car Accidents – During the Black Friday weekend, parking lots at malls and shopping centers are overflowing with people who have little on their minds other than finding the next deal. This fact often means an increase in car accidents. Even at slow speeds, accidents that occur in a parking lot can potentially cause whiplash and other serious injuries.
Pedestrian Accidents – Accidents that involve a pedestrian and a vehicle often result in extremely serious injuries.
The most common injuries sustained by pedestrians often include:
- Head trauma
- Internal bleeding
- Spine injuries
- Hip injuries
Keep in mind that once the paramedics arrive on the scene, they will direct their efforts first on assessing victims for significant injuries, such as those of the head and spine. They will then stabilize them to help prevent long-term brain damage or paralysis. As a victim, it’s important to let emergency medical personnel do their jobs, both for your health and for any legal claim you may pursue in the future.
2. Crowd Crush And Charges – Fractures, Crushed Organs, And Internal Bleeding
Internal organs can be crushed by only 1,000 pounds of pressure, about the weight of six or seven people. When shoppers get too excited and desperate about a doorbuster deal, the chance of a stampede increases, raising your risk of being trampled.
Retailers find success in creating a time-sensitive buzz about these types of sales but are harming some of their shoppers in the process.
At the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, NY, Walmart shoppers anticipating the too-good-to-be-true deals filled the sidewalks and parking lots. At 3:30 in the morning, a Nassau County Police Officer used a bullhorn to request that shoppers remain calm, but by 5 a.m., tension began to mount. A crude poster: “Blitz Line Starts Here,” was taped up to the store.
Police officers were nowhere to be found, and the crowd would wait no more. They used their fists and shoulders to bang and press on the sliding glass doors, causing them to bow, even though six to ten workers attempted to push back against the swell of the rowdy crowd. According to witnesses and the police, the doors shattered, and the unruly mob stampeded into the store to make a mad grab for the bargains awaiting them.
Walmart employee Jdimytai Damour, 34, fell back onto the linoleum floor and was trampled by the charge of people coming through the doors. His coworkers were also thrown back and ran over. Even though workers were on their way to help him, Damour had already been fatally wounded by the impatient crowd. Despite the attempts of emergency workers to revive the seasonal worker on the scene, he was pronounced dead after arriving at Franklin Hospital Medical Center in Valley Stream.
The fear of missing out on a new discount or items available in limited quantities or for a limited time can cause shoppers to lose their minds. They charge ahead with little or no regard for the safety and well-being of those around them. If you decide to venture out and face the Black Friday crowds and find yourself in a stampede-type situation, the best thing to do is to stay on your feet. If you do get knocked down, curl up into a ball. Doing so can help protect your body from having too much pressure placed upon it in one place. If you are able, turn on your side, which will help protect your spine, lungs, and stomach, leaving your shoulders to take the brunt of the pressure.
3. Injuries In The Store – Slamming Carts And Crushing Boxes
In anticipation of the deal-hungry shoppers that will come, stores stock their shelves as full as possible with bargain products. Despite how carefully they stack boxes, hurried shoppers will start grabbing at any box they can, causing the stacked boxes to become a hazard. Heavy boxes can potentially fall on the consumers below.
Brain Injuries and Head Trauma – Brain injuries and head trauma can be caused by a variety of incidents, including falling, shoving, and intentional assaults. They are common Black Friday injuries, which can also occur from reaching for objects that are too high or because the store employees stacked items negligently. Keep in mind that most shoppers out on Black Friday are not just hunting a single item.
It doesn’t end with a rush through the front door. Those same shoppers are running to the electronics and home department to pick up all the great deals while they are hot and then rushing to the registers to officially complete their purchases. Some stores have plastic carts that are more forgiving than traditional metal ones. You should be cautious of overloaded carts that can easily tip over, causing shoppers to be knocked off their feet and crushing their arms, legs, or other body parts.
4. Violent Shoppers – Stabbings, Shootings, And Fist Fights
As if they were cavemen hunting for food during a time of scarcity, some Black Friday shoppers are incredibly competitive. They come prepared to defend their “right” to particular sale items.
There is nothing wrong with being excited about a Black Friday deal and a shopping trip. However, excitement can quickly escalate into aggression if a shopper feels threatened by a limited supply or someone getting the last of what they wanted.
It’s sad to say that not all injuries that occur on Black Friday are accidents. As such, fistfights, brawls, and even stabbings or shootings can result from the madness.
Consider the following incidents:
- In 2020, two teens were shot and killed at a Northern California mall in Sacramento, sending shoppers running for safety.
- In an Alabama KMART in 2017, an altercation over a large toy vehicle placed one man in the hospital with a shattered hip.
- At a Walmart in Virginia in 2013, an argument over a parking spot led to a stabbing.
- At a Chicago-area Kohl’s in 2013, one man was shot in the shoulder by a police officer during his attempt to steal a television.
In the Hustle article mentioned above, shootings account for up to 6 of the 11 reported Black Friday deaths between 2006 and 2018. With some shootings, there was an apparent link between the act and a shopping-related dispute, while others appear to be caused by personal conflicts that could have occurred on any other day of the year.
In 2016, cameras at a Modesto mall captured a violent altercation between Black Friday shoppers near a JC Penney store. An argument escalated into a brawl at the Vintage Faire Mall, as shown in videos posted to Twitter and YouTube. A witness told CNN that he did not know what initiated the fighting. Thankfully, security responded and stopped the fight before police were needed on the scene, as there were no reports of injuries to the disgruntled shoppers.
5. Slip And Fall Injuries Related To Store Hazards
No matter where you find yourself, you, like every other American, have a fundamental duty to conduct yourself in a safe manner. People who own or manage property have a fundamental obligation to maintain the property in safe conditions or at least to provide fair warning if hazardous conditions exist. If there are conditions that could cause a shopper to slip and fall, such as a wet floor or boxes that are strewn around, it is the duty of the property’s owner or manager to take care of the problem.
If you were injured in a slip-and-fall accident on Black Friday or any other day of the year, your next step should be to contact a skilled California injury lawyer. Your attorney can help you file a claim for compensation. Remember that shopping carts can become hazards themselves and cause shoppers to trip and fall.
Employer Responsibilities On Black Friday
Employers have a duty to maintain a safe working environment for their employees. One only has to consider the case of the 2008 Walmart worker who was trampled to death to see that even large retailers can be ill-prepared to handle the massive influx of people that come through their doors. Even police who responded to the incident said that responding to such a crowd was beyond their job description. Shoppers aren’t the only ones in harm’s way on this notorious shopping day. Employees also face risks such as:
- Being trampled
- Inaccessible emergency exits
- Slip and fall injuries
- Crush injuries
- Injuries related to mismanagement of inventory
- Acts of violence
The risk to employees is so considerable that even the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates specific actions during major sales events to protect employees and shoppers. These guidelines include:
- Trained security personnel or police officers on-site
- The use of barricades or ropes away from the store’s entrance
- Implementing crowd control measures well before customers arrive
- Putting emergency protocols in place for potential hazards
- Making entrance and exit procedures clear to customers
- Preventing shoppers from entering once maximum occupancy is reached
- Ensuring exit doors aren’t locked or blocked
Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for their employees, whether it is Black Friday or not. (Strickland v. Timco Aviation Services, Inc., 66 So. 3d 1002 Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 2011).
Additionally, a property owner is responsible for providing safe premises for visiting shoppers. A property owner owes two specific duties to its shoppers (Rocamonde v. Marshalls of Ma, Inc., 56 So. 3d 863 Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 3d Dist. 2011):
- To warn of hidden dangers which are or should be known to the owner and which are unknown to the invitee and will not be found through the exercise of due care
- To use ordinary care to keep its premises in a reasonably safe state
If either an employer or business owner fails in their legal duties and that failure results in a Black Friday injury, the injured party may have grounds for a personal injury claim or lawsuit and should call an experienced injury attorney in California.
Your Rights After A Black Friday Injury
If you suffered Black Friday injuries anywhere in the state of California, do not hesitate to reach out to a reputable personal injury attorney for assistance with filing a claim. An experienced premises liability lawyer in California will dig deeper into the cause of your accident to determine if you have a valid claim and how much it might be worth. If you and your lawyer can establish that your case was caused by someone else’s negligence, you likely have a case. You could receive financial compensation for your pain and suffering, medical bills, and physical injuries.
Find out if you have a case by contacting Arash Khorsandi, Esq. and the award-winning team of trial attorneys at Arash Law at (888) 488-1391 or receive a free online case consultation. Our offices are conveniently located in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Riverside, Woodland Hills, Fresno, and Bakersfield.