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Shopping Cart Dents, Dings: Is the Store Liable?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

It's happened to almost everyone. You parked your car in the grocery store's lot, and when you come out, a dreaded shopping cart is up against your car! Who is going to pay for the damage?

A New Jersey woman recently went head-to-head with Sam's Club, demanding that the store pay for damage to her car caused by two shopping carts. The woman had just parked her car when she saw two carts stacked together and a shouting Sam's Club employee zooming towards her car. Bam! The runaway carts hit her front bumper, causing over $1,000 in damage.

Sam's Club initially refused to pay for the woman's damages, reports. The store claimed that a customer left the carts in the parking lot and the wind blew the carts towards her car, so they were not liable.

Should Sam's Club, or any store, be responsible for dents and dings caused by shopping carts?

Was There Negligence?

Sam's Club might be liable for damages if the store or its employees were negligent. To be liable under the theory of negligence, Sam's Club would have to breach a duty of care that caused a foreseeable damage.

Did Sam's Club have a responsibility to protect cars in its parking lot against damage? Did it fail to do so? Was it foreseeable that a car could be damaged by shopping carts?

In general, under the theory of premise liability, property owners are responsible to protect guests, or invitees, from injuries or accidents that occur on their property. This doesn't mean that they have to do everything possible to protect from every harm. Usually, it is enough for property owners to take reasonable steps to ensure safety.

Who Owns, Controls the Parking Lot?

Here, Sam's Club probably did have a duty to protect people and their cars in its parking lot from harm, since the store owned and controlled the parking lot. Shopping cart dents and dings likely happen often enough for them to be foreseeable. However, reasonable safety measures, such as having conveniently placed cart corrals and attendants who pick up the carts, probably fulfilled the store's duty to protect.

In this case, Sam's Club eventually agreed to pay for the damages done to the woman's car because video evidence showed an employee was supposed to be controlling the carts when the accident happened.

But generally, stores wouldn't be held liable for damage caused by shopping carts, unless you can prove they or their employees were negligent. But if your car was damaging in a store parking lot, you may want to contact an attorney to assess your claim.

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