Costco is a chain of warehouse-type stores who offer a huge variety of products at competitive prices. Costco has 10 Maryland stores. Like other warehouse-type stores, shopping at Costco requires a membership. The cost of membership helps reduce overhead and costs which, theoretically, reduces prices.
You would think coming from personal injury lawyers, this is the part where we would argue that Costco is a poorly run business, that causes thousands of unnecessary injuries. However, this is not our argument. We do not contend that Costco is an awfully ran business. However, it is true that Costco runs a huge warehouse store with lots of heavy merchandise and equipment. Add tons of passing customers into the mix and it is a recipe for a disaster.How Accidents Happen
Most lawsuits against Costco are premises liability cases. If you visit a Costco on any weekend, the chances that the place is going to be packed is great. There is always high activity at these types of stores, which increases the risk of an accident. In recent years, many personal injury cases have popped up; naming Costco or similar stores as defendants. This does not mean that these stores are inherently dangerous or the company does not care about its customers. It really boils down to how items are set up, presented, and sold. In addition, how well trained and dedicated the employees are to safety.
While most stores utilize shelves and standard displays, Costco prefers the warehouse vibe and stacks most of their items on palettes. Obviously, this can cause displays to become knocked over or items to fall if an item is improperly removed. Costco employees typically have to operate forklifts and other heavy machinery as well, which only makes aisles more perilous. These employees have much more of responsibility compared to those at other stores. So it is important to hold Costco accountable, when an employee fails to live up to the task.
In more recent years, Costco has expanded the range of products and services that they offer to pretty much anything. It really is an amazing the selection of products that are available. These stores now sell electronics, groceries, concessions, and even tires. Certainly, this sets up Costco as a potential defendant in a products liability case. But while Costco has been faced with their fair share of these cases, the vast majority of litigation against the company involves premises liability cases. Many claims against Costco include trip and fall cases involving wet surfaces, poor weather conditions, uneven surfaces, and improper maintenance. Other claims evolve from employees moving and welding equipment and merchandise in a crowded area where things can fall and topple onto customers.
These conditions can lead to severe injuries including broken/fractured bones; head trauma; joint dislocation; spinal injury; wrist/ankle injury; cuts; and bruises. If these injuries are caused by Costco’s negligence, they should be responsible for covering the costs associated with the injury. This ncludes the victim’s pain and suffering.Litigating a Costco Case
It is impossible for any store to be 100% safe, but there is a still a duty to make a store reasonably safe for customers and employees. This means that stores should avoid creating hazards that could potentially pose a risk to customers while warning customers of existing hazards. Bringing a successful case against Costco means that an injured customer has to prove a few things: 1) they were injured on Costco’s premises; 2) the injuries occurred because of a hazardous condition or negligence on behalf of Costco; 3) the proprietor or manager of the property was negligent in their responsibilities to ensure that you remained safe.Sample Costco Cases
We pulled some personal injury cases that involved Costco. Costco certainly has claims in Maryland. But few lawsuits are getting filed. Even fewer are going to trial.
These verdicts are interesting While these should give you an idea of the types of injuries and awards that are typically at play here, they are by no means perfect predictors of how a case will turn out.
- 2017, Los Vegas: $400,000 Verdict - Plaintiff tries to exit the check-out area at Costco. He slips on a piece of cardboard. he suffers a serious ankle fracture. Costco claims the plaintiff in an employee-only area. The jury finds Costco at fault but does find the plaintiff 15% at fault, presumably for walking in the restricted area in the first place.
- 2015, Washington: $80,667 Verdict – The plaintiff wants to purchase a safe at Costco. It weighs approximately 300 pounds, prompting the man to ask for assistance from store employees. When only one employee arrives, the plaintiff asks for another. He is told that no other employees are available. But the employees says that he will have to assist in carrying the safe. When he goes to lift the safe, the employee shifts it without giving any warning to the plaintiff, causing his arm to “pop.” Soon, the plaintiff’s arm begins to turn purple and he is unable to straighten it. He sues Costco, claiming that they should have carried the safe to his vehicle. The jury returns a verdict of $80,667, which is then deducted by 50% for the plaintiff’s contributory negligence.
- 2015, Illinois: $125,000 Settlement – A retired newspaper manager was walking into a Costco to make copies of his daughter’s wedding photos when he steps on a curb that was recently painted with high-gloss paint. The man slips on the paint, hitting his head when he falls to the ground. He sustains a fractured orbital bone. He sues Costco, claiming that the store was negligent in its care of the curb. He alleged that it was standard practice to use paint on walking areas that create friction, and Costco deviated from standard practice by using high-gloss paint. He further alleges that another customer had previously slipped on the paint, so Costco was on notice of the condition. On the first day of trial, the parties reached a settlement for $125,000.
- 2014, New York: $9,900,000 Verdict – A 48-year-old woman is shopping at a Costco when an employee places her partially loaded cart onto an upward-moving cart escalator. She stands behind the escalator and notices the cart starting to come back towards her. When she goes to stop it, it suddenly plunges towards her, hitting her right arm. She develops complex regional pain syndrome, which requires injections, daily medication and hospitalization. Doctors determine that she will require a spinal implant at some point in the future. She sues Costco, claiming that the employee failed to properly lock the cart into place. After the case went to trial, a jury returns an award of nearly $10,000,000.
- 2012, Florida: $2,175 Verdict – While shopping with her mother at Costco, an 11-year-old girl slips on spilled soup. After the accident, the girl, and her mother go to the hospital, where doctors diagnose her with a fractured tailbone. She experiences consistent pain in her tailbone and claims that she suffers from embarrassment because she constantly has to use a cushion to sit at school. Her mother sues Costco on her behalf. At trial, defense counsel claimed that the girl did not sustain any serious or permanent injuries and that there were huge gaps in her dates of treatment. The jury finds in the plaintiff’s favor, awarding her $2,175.
- 2012, California: $414,868 Verdict – A middle-aged notary is shopping at Costco when she slips on a foreign substance in the food court. She sustains a patella fracture of her right knee and is taken to a hospital where she undergoes an open reduction. She makes a good recovery, but claims that she may develop arthritis in her leg because of the fall. She sues Costco, alleging that several employees observed the hazard and took no action. She is ultimately successful, with the jury awarding her $414,868.
The attorneys at Miller & Zois have a wealth of experience when it comes to personal injury cases, especially premises liability. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident that occurred at Costco, call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.