Sometime in the 1960s, a man named Dave Gold inherited a small liquor store in downtown Los Angeles. He began selling bottles of wine for 99 cents, and it was an incredibly popular idea for getting people into the store. That idea blossomed into 99 Cents Only Stores in the early 1980s. Later, some items would be sold for $1.99 or $2.99, but the stores retained their popularity. In 2012, Dave Gold sold his 99 Cents Only Stores for $1.6 billion. The new owners immediately began laying off employees to reduce operating costs.
The Staffing Issue
In the context of personal injury lawsuits against 99 Cents Only Stores, the continued lack of sufficient staffing for purposes of keeping operating costs down has become the bane of the company. Hazards that arise on properties owned and occupied by 99 Cents Only simply aren’t spotted or attended to quickly by the company’s employees. Some of those hazards have led to injuries to customers and personal injury claims and lawsuits.
The Store’s Duty
It’s the legal duty of store management and employees in California to maintain the premises that they occupy in a reasonably safe condition, so that when customers enter the premises, they’re not knowingly or unknowingly confronted by hazards to their personal safety. A breach of that duty that causes injuries to a customer can result in liability. Managers and employees need to maintain awareness, and if a condition arises that might injure a customer, it must be quickly remedied. Customers must also be warned of that condition until it is remedied.
Falls and Falling Merchandise
The most common injuries in accidents at 99 Cents Only Stores may involve gravity. Here are a few examples of such accidents:
- Slip-and-falls as a result of spilled liquids or other substance onto walking surfaces.
- Trip-and-falls caused by merchandise racks, displays, sticky walking surfaces, uneven walking surfaces and merchandise itself.
- Falling merchandise landing on customers from high above them.
Any number of circumstances surrounding an accident might be used by an injury victim to show that a 99 Cents Only Store was careless and negligent. They all turn on the issue of notice. For example, a claimant can show that a hazard existed that the store’s management or employees knew or should have known about, the store can be held at fault. A recurring dangerous condition can also give rise to liability. If there were no regular inspections of the premises by management or employees, cleaning up a hazard could take an unreasonably long time. A customer could be injured in the interim.
After a store has been found to be liable for a customer’s injuries, here are some of the damages that California law allows a jury to award:
- Past medical bills and medical bills to be incurred in the future.
- Past lost earnings and earnings reasonably expected to be lost in the future.
- Any permanent disfigurement or disability.
- Pain and suffering.
- Diminished enjoyment of life.
- Other significant damages in the event of a wrongful death.
In 2014, a $490,000 settlement was entered into with 99 Cent Only Stores after a customer slipped and fell on a wet floor store and suffered serious injuries to her knee. Another case in Texas is pending, while another personal injury case was filed against the merchandiser in late June of 2019 in Orange County.