Mode of Operation Doctrine Applied in Trip and Fall Case

In a recent New Jersey Federal court decision, a judge denied Wal-Mart’s motion for summary judgment and determined that the plaintiff was entitled to a trial on his claim for personal injuries arising in defendant’s store.  Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that he tripped and fell over a fishing wire which Wal-Mart employees failed to reel in from a display but rather left on the floor.  The judge found that the defendant as a commercial premises owner owed the plaintiff, a business invitee, a duty to guard against dangerous conditions on the property that the owner either knows about or should know about.

However, the court also determined that due to the self service nature of the sporting goods department, it would apply the mode of operation doctrine, and found that the store had created an inherent risk that customers might mishandle merchandise.

See Therefore the plaintiff did not need to prove that the store had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition causing plaintiff’s injury, and gave the plaintiff an inference of negligence.  Thus the plaintiff would have his day in court.

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