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The endeavor of every business enterprise is to minimize costs in its operations so as to maximize the gains. Nevertheless, business practices need to meet ethical standard to reduce the instances of losses, damages, and injuries. Various legislations have been enacted to make business premises conducive to the employees as well as the customers. Despite taking all the necessary precautions, mistakes may still occur at some instances along the business life. Unfortunately, these mistakes are frequently viewed as negligence, which is an insufficient defense in a civil lawsuit (Roger & Gaylord, 1999). By and large, issues of negligence are raised when an employee or a customer incurs a loss, such as damage to personal possessions, or sustains injury. Latest statistics indicates raising cases of injuries to shoppers in retail superstores such as Home Depot, Walmart, and The Furniture Barn. Usually, these injuries are inflicted by falling merchandise that is piled above the ordinary view of the unsuspecting customers. On several occasions, heavy items such as timber, bathroom cabinets and kitchen sinks causes fatal injuries, and this provokes public outrage as well as complicated lawsuits. In regard to this, the government has appreciated the need for monitoring employee and customer safety, and acted by instituting an agency referred to as Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Even so, there have not been an effective monitoring of employee safety, and records of their injuries and death while shopping are still scanty. In addition, superstores are reluctant in releasing these figures so as not to damage their reputation, and this makes it difficult to understand the full extent of these tragic events.
Compensations are difficult to compute, and no superstore gives the clients a preset figure suggesting the worth of an injury. However, every case is handled differently, and with accordance to the circumstances. The circumstances considered include the locale of the accident; the status of the injured person in the organisation, i.e. whether he/she is a customer or an employee; the nature of the injuries, for instance, whether they are slight or permanent; the part played by the customer during incident; whether the customer was mentally and physically fit prior the incidence, and whether the customer had preexisting injuries or not .
In this case, Jackie Michaels was injured in the customer aisles. She sustained severe injuries while straining to check the price of a bathroom cabinet she intended to purchase. She had been healthy and prior the fateful incidence. Following the accident, The Furniture Barn refused to take the responsibility for her medical bills and other losses. Upon recuperation, she decided to file suit claiming that the accident came as a result of negligence. Her argument was that the operator acted carelessly by leavingthe forklift unattended for a significant amount of time, and therefore The Furniture Barn should have taken the responsibility for her injury and the loss she incurred. Therefore, since negligence lawsuits are analyzed into elements, the expectation is that Miss Michaels will attempt to prove every one of them beyond reasonable doubt, in her endeavor to win the case.
Elements in a Negligence Claim
Although jurisdictions interpret lawsuits differently, every negligence suit must have the following elements: duty of care, breach of duty, actual and proximate cause, and scope of liability. Failure to prove any of these elements will render the case in admissible, which means that The Furniture Barn will not be ordered to pay compensation to Miss Michaels.
Duty and Breach
To this end, the jury is likely to test the threshold of Miss Michaels’ case by evaluating if harm was reasonably foreseeable. It may then seek to establish the propinquity between the pallets and the pile of bathroom accessories that she was assessing before deciding if her claim is just, fair, and reasonable. If it is established that The Furniture Barn owed her the duty of protection in such a situation, the jury will proceed with assessing if the management breached that obligation. During their assessment, they will, probably, accommodate subjective and objective views. For example, in a subjective perspective, the jury may attempt to establish if the member of staff knowingly exposed Miss Michaels’ to a significant level of risk that resulted to her loss. On the other hand, it may consider taking an objective view with an endeavor of determining if the employee failed to realize what any reasonable worker in such a situation would (Peter, 2009). The two cases would be interpreted as breach of duty. In the face of such possibilities, The Furniture Barn’s attorney will strive to show that Miss Michaels was not reasonably careful as she examined the merchandise, a failure that resulted into her injury.
Causation and the Scope of Liability
With causation, the plaintiff must establish an unobstructed connection between her injury and the company’s negligence. In most cases, causation is meant to demonstrate the factual consequences as well as non-consequences. For the court to hold The Furniture Barn liable it will have to base its argument on a particular legislation or omission that is believed to have caused the injury. Subsequently, they jury may try to evaluate if the plaintiff could have been injured had the defendant considered acting otherwise. To be precise, they may narrow down into assessing if the defendant materially heightened the risk of injury, and what was his intervention during the causal chain. If this is proved to be the case, the value of injury will be estimated tentatively and to the satisfaction both parties. Additionally the court may seek to establish whether or not the employee apprehended the danger of injury, and if he did, whether took steps in avoiding it. This is with regard to remoteness. Remoteness is likely to come under scrutiny after a factual association between the injury and tort has been established. It will basically be concerned with consequences that are legal, in contrast to factual. Therefore, although the distinction between legal and factual causations is difficult to establish, remoteness is mainly concerned with establishing the established consequence that need to be compensated (Peter, 2009). In the case of Miss Michaels versus The Furniture Barn, the defendant will be obliged to take responsibility if the injury was caused by a reasonably predictable risk.
After breach of duty and the cause of injury have been established, the jury may still seek to establish whether the injury that was caused have a pecuniary compensation. Generally, Miss Michaels can only be fully compensated if she proves that she suffered losses which can be quantified in monetary terms. Alternatively, she may simply be forced to consent to nominal compensation. However, if she proves pecuniary loss, there is a chance of her obtaining damages attributed to non-pecuniary traumas, for example, emotional distress. Michaels may be required to show her pecuniary loss in various methods. In her case, since she had been injured as a result of the alleged negligence, she may be asked produce the evidence of her medical bills in court. If she wishes to incorporate the claim of lost income due to her extended leave of absence on medical grounds, she may be required to elaborate how the income was attained before the fateful accident.
The jury may recognize her emotional distress as a tort. In most cases, damages as a result of emotional distress are only recoverable if the distress is accompanying a pecuniary injury of physical nature. As her emotional suffering came with the physical injury, the jury may require The Furniture Barn to recompense for it monetarily. With accordance to the common law, had Michaels suffered emotional distress alone, it would be difficult for the court to authorize any pecuniary compensation (Peter, 2009). Nevertheless, certain statutory legislations have been passed to allow recompense for pure emotional suffering. However, this is rare, and such a judgment is only passed after certain considerations.
Damages in this case are the monetary compensation that The Furniture Barn may be required to pay Jackie Michaels for her injury. Their aim is to try to restore the original status of a condition or person. Sound judgment, as decided by the jury, is among the important tests which are conducted during the deliberations on whether plaintiffs should be compensated for torts. The test seeks to establish if a reasonable individual would have been harmed following the managerial breach of duty. This test is complicated in some circumstances because it relies on jury’s or judge’s opinion that is at times based on restrictive facts. Despite this complexity, the test is vital in deciding if a plaintiff should be compensated for a tort of negligence (Gregg & Tessa, 2011). Being compensatory, damages will address Michaels’ losses aiming to restore her wholeness as it was before the incident. Even so, the jury cannot sanction anything more because this would unlawfully profit Michaels in guise of tort. In all cases of negligence, there are three basic categories of damages, and they include special, general, and punitive damages. In the case of Jackie Michaels versus The Furniture Barn, special losses will be the quantifiable monetary losses that she suffered since the tort occurred until the finalization of the trial. These losses include medical bills and loss of earnings, and they may be proved through documentations such as invoices and receipts. General damages, such as the pain and suffering that Miss Michaels endured, are not quantifiable in monetary terms. As pointed out earlier, if Miss Michaels proves a minimal damage or loss, the jury may propose nominal damages, which may at times be a symbolic one dollar. The aim of punitive damages is to punish the defendant. Michaels cannot legally lay claim to them as they are not obtainable in cases such as tort. They are imposed in such cases as where the defendant is found guilty of defrauding or defaming with intent.
The Potential Judgment
In the case of Jackie Michaels versus The Furniture Barn, there is a high probability of the jury ruling in favor of the plaintiff. This is because, with a professional legal advice and representation, she has the potential of proving every elements of this lawsuit beyond any reasonable doubt. Her argument is likely to be convincing, for example, although Miss Michaels would have been expected to know that forklifts ordinarily prowl the gangways, the management should have appreciated that their customers may become captivated by the sensational display of merchandise; and, therefore, get emotionally carried-away. In any case, the display is meant to catch and retain their attention. Moreover, the management should not expect them to be adequately trained on the manner of conduct while in such locales. This is because, unlike the workers, their visits to the premise may not be frequent. Therefore, the jury will probably recognize that as a duty, the management should not compromise safety for cost. As much as they facilitate the customers’ tranquility, management should ensure that these clients remain aware of the risks involved with their adventure to the store.
Miss Michael has a solid argument as any reasonable worker would have been expected to perceive the likelihood of a customer getting attracted by the striking merchandize, and therefore reduce the proximity between the pallet and the cabinet. It is evident that Michaels took the necessary precaution by wearing low heeled shoes during the visit to the store. Furthermore, she was mentally and physically fit during the fateful visit, and she therefore didn’t have to be companioned with a human guide. Michaels’ intention was to purchase the cabinet, and was not in a mission of trying to profit from tort. In fact, she upheld her interest in the merchandise, which she later purchased from Wal-Mart. Her losses are quantifiable in monetary terms. This is because, they are computable based on the invoices and receipts of the medical costs incurred, as well as her medical history. On verifying and estimating her loss due to physical injury, the jury will, consequently, try to establish the associated emotional suffering with the aim of recompensing her.
Consequent Managerial Decisions
In this case, managerial decisions will be based on the fault principle. Individuals are said to be at fault if they fail to live up to certain standards as set by the law. To start with, the management will institute an inquiry with the aim of establishing strong bases for their consequent decisions. During the inquiry, the forklift operator, the foreman as well as their division manager will have to be suspended to facilitate a credible investigation. Upon the conclusion of the investigation, The Furniture Barn will prepare a list of goals and standards to enable the employees avert destructive behavior and accidents during their normal engagements. The firm will abide with government regulations to ensure that its operations are within the law. All employees will be provided with a manual that summarizes the organization’s safety policies after it has been reasonably reviewed. The Furniture Barn will also roll out an emergency preparedness plan so that workers are made ready to tackle any potential danger whether natural or artificial. Such plans will help prevent trivial accidents from increasingly becoming destructive. These efforts will be geared towards improving the safety of the customers as well as the working conditions of employees. Other measures will include installing the forklifts with soft hooters and speed regulator, widening the aisles, and sensitizing the operators on the importance of being focused. The management will also ensure that customers are cautionary advised as often as possible with the intention of reminding them that they share the gangways with industrial vehicles.
Though additional costs may be incurred, the management will consider averting the towering of heavy merchandise unless they are properly fastened. This is to reduce fatalities that result when customers are hit by falling wares. As much as possible, strategic decisions will be aimed at placing the items within a reasonable view of the customers. Such placement will help reduce the anguish suffered during the evaluation of quality and prices. To further scale down the customers’ trouble, The Furniture Burn will hire attendants who are good communicators, friendly, and helpful. These measures will be reviewed from time to time so as to reduce the incidences of injuries and lawsuits.
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