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Fork lift causes death of customer, family sues Home Depot

New Jersey residents who are out shopping or running errands have some responsibility for taking basic safety precautions, such as watching where they step. At the same time, store and property owners also have responsibility to provide a safe environment and a walking area that is free of obstacles. In some cases, an argument can be made on either side, and it comes down to a jury to decide whether unsafe property conditions existed.

A case in a nearby state illustrates this issue. The suit is being brought against Home Depot by the family of a man who died due to injuries sustained in the store. The family alleges that the man died five days after a fall in the store and that employee negligence contributed to his death.

The elderly man was entering a Home Depot in an area where a fork lift was being used. According to reports, the fork lift was not in operation at the time, and the forks were resting on or near the ground. A description of store video states that the fork was cast in shadow, which might have impaired someone's ability to see it.

At least one employee was near the fork lift at the time of the accident. The employee stated he was acting as a spotter for the forklift. According to the family of the elderly man, the employee was not paying attention to the area.

The man tripped on the fork and fell to the ground. He sustained a laceration to the elbow and was later taken to the hospital due to left side pain. The man died of complications from his injuries five days later. The family originally filed a suit for both punitive damages and compensation for loss. A judge dismissed the punitive claims, but is allowing the compensation claim to go to trial.

Source:  Courthouse News Service, "Fatal Forklift Trip Will Send Home Depot to Trial" Rose Bouboushian, Jan. 06, 2014

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