Publix Super Markets has a reputation throughout the southeast as a welcoming neighborhood shopping spot and all-around friendly company to do business with. Given this image, it’s easy to understand why so many people injured in Publix grocery stores assume that they can simply file a claim with Publix and expect to be treated fairly.
It’s true that Publix Super Markets is privately owned by a combination of employees, former employees, and a single founding family, but its community-mindedness appears to end there. In just a couple examples from its storied history, the company has settled multiple lawsuits for gender and racial discrimination, and it is currently defending itself in a wrongful death lawsuit, regarding a 70-year-old deli worker who died of COVID after being forbidden to wear a mask to work.
The sad reality is that, while Publix might seem to care about you when you’re walking in with money to spend, the moment you get injured in a Publix store, or pose a threat to their bottom line in any way, you can expect them to behave just like any other large company. That is, they’ll either ignore you, offer you as little as possible to go away, or try to damage your case against them in a variety of ways.
If you’re hoping for fair compensation for a serious injury caused by Publix’s negligence, you will need a Publix accident attorney. The sooner you have a qualified professional to advise and advocate for you, the more seriously Publix will take you, and the harder it will be for their claims department to manipulate you into hurting your own case.
Below, we’ll go into more detail on the most common reasons you might need to sue Publix and what to expect if you do.
If, at any time, you’re prefer to talk directly with an attorney who handles personal injury cases against Publix in Georgia, just give us a call or reach out through our online chat function.
There Are Plenty of Ways People Can Get Hurt at Publix
Supermarkets, including Publix stores, can develop lots of different hazards if not well cared for, such as falling merchandise or sharp edges of shelving leading to premises liability. Over the years, Publix customers have tripped over stock floats, and at least one fell off a medical scale that was open for public use.
Some have also fallen victim to violent crime while doing their shopping, including a grandmother and 1-year-old grandson who were shot and killed by a stranger in a Publix in June of 2021.
Like all businesses, Publix Super Markets is responsible for taking reasonable care to keep its premises free of all unnecessary hazards, and to warn customers about any hazards that cannot be completely or immediately eliminated.
In areas where it is common, violent crime can sometimes qualify as a known hazard, making companies like Publix responsible for taking necessary security measures.
If you’ve been seriously injured in a Publix store, no matter how strange, random, horrific, innocent, or unrelated to Publix the incident may seem, it’s worth conferring with legal counsel. Your attorney can help you find out whether there was anything Publix could reasonably have done to protect you, and to hold them accountable for negligent security if so.
Personal Injury Claims Against Publix Regularly Involve Slip-and-Fall Accidents
It might sound like a cliché, but it happens all too often. A customer, employee, or malfunctioning piece of equipment drops a substance on the floor that interferes with traction, and someone else slips in it and falls. Typically, the floral and dairy sections are particular danger spots, because of the amount of liquid present, along with the entrances on rainy days.
Some customers have also suffered slip-and-falls in Publix parking lots. Although Publix obviously can’t control the weather outdoors, it is responsible for keeping all of its publicly accessible property reasonably hazard-free. So, when parking lot slip-and-falls involve avoidable issues like oil spills or poorly surfaced asphalt, Publix may be liable for those too.
Slip-and-fall accidents are often assumed to be trivial, but they can easily result in costly and even life-altering injuries. The above woman who slipped in the parking lot, for example, reported serious lumbar damage. Another customer who slipped inside a Publix store cut his forehead open on a refrigerator case handle while falling and required nine stitches.
If you’ve suffered a slip-and-fall at a Publix store, the commonality of these accidents can work in your favor in court, because Publix should be an expert by now on how to prevent them. There’s really no excuse for the company not to have solid systems in place to keep its floors as safe to tread on as possible.
On the other hand, the frequency of slip-and-falls can also work against you, because these are the exact kinds of cases Publix gets lots of practice defending against.
We’ll discuss this challenge further in the next two sections.
Publix Has a Responsibility to Address Known Hazards — But Not to a Superhuman Degree
In order to win a personal injury suit against Publix, you and your lawyer will need to prove:
- That Publix had a duty to protect you (this is automatically true if you are shopping in an open store)
- That Publix failed in that duty (this most often involves ignoring known dangers until an incident occurs)
- That you suffered an injury as a result (your medical exam will be essential to this part)
Publix knows how serious slip-and-fall accidents are and what causes them. That’s never really in question. The same could be said about most other kinds of grocery store accidents as well.
However, proving that a business knows about a certain type of danger isn’t necessarily enough to establish liability after an accident. Plaintiffs will usually have to prove that the business knew, or should have known, about the specific hazard that caused the accident, and failed to address it in a timely manner.
There are situations where this “grace period” for addressing hazards makes some sense. For example, in 2016, a Florida appeals court dismissed a case in which a woman had slipped on a puddle of laundry detergent in a Publix. Security footage showed that a detergent bottle had fallen from a shelf and begun leaking a matter of seconds before the woman slipped. Not only that, but an assistant manager had run over the moment the detergent fell to take care of it. He just happened to be facing away from the woman when she turned into the aisle and slipped on the spill he hadn’t yet had time to clean or mark. The footage also showed an unidentified customer touching the shelf the detergent fell from just a few moments earlier, so the detergent’s precarious position may not have been within Publix’s control either.
These facts don’t do anything to help with this woman’s injuries, of course, and it’s unfortunate that she will now have very limited options to cover her expenses, but legally, it makes sense that Publix wasn’t considered negligent in her case. There doesn’t seem to be much the company could have done better to protect her from this honest accident.
Knowledge of the Hazard Is a Key Issue in Most Personal Injury Cases Against Publix
On the other hand, “we didn’t have time to notice/fix the hazard” has become the go-to defense for Publix slip-and-fall accidents, and for many other grocery store accidents, even when it makes very little sense. Grocers know that this defense is difficult to disprove, and to make matters more confusing, courts often disagree on what proof is required, even though these cases have been a regular occurrence for decades.
In the 1980s, a jury found in favor of a woman who slipped in grease at a Publix, but an appeals court overturned their decision, stating that there was not enough proof that Publix knew about the spill.
Just a few years later, the opposite happened, with an appeals court overturning the initial dismissal of another woman’s case. That woman also slipped in grease, but was able to describe footprints and cart tracks running through it, along with litter on the floor that indicated it had not been tended to in some time.
Another handful of years later, an appeals court again overturned a lower court’s ruling against Publix. In that case, the plaintiff had slipped on a piece of cake, believed to have come from a sample station. Again, the appeal court’s reason for siding with Publix was a lack of evidence that the cake had been on the floor for long enough to constitute negligence.
In 2001, in a case where a customer had slipped on a piece of banana that both she and a witness described as brown and discolored, the Supreme Court of Florida determined that the burden fell upon Publix to prove that the banana had not been on the floor long enough to turn brown there.
Yet even after this ruling, Publix has been allowed to claim ignorance of hazards and force injured customers to prove otherwise again and again, including within Florida. In one case in 2010, a 70-year-old woman was awarded $1.5 million, only to have that ruling overturned upon appeal, for lack of proof that Publix knew the floor she slipped on was wet. The woman reported seeing an employee holding a mop just after her fall, suggesting that someone had time to respond to the situation, but failed to put up a warning sign. In spite of this, she ultimately received nothing.
The cloudy standards for proving whether Publix knew about a hazard are part of why it’s so important to start working with a Publix accident lawyer quickly. Working with a lawyer greatly improves your chances of preserving crucial hard evidence, including in-store security footage.
What to Do If You Have Been Injured at a Publix Store
Immediately after a Publix accident, call for emergency medical services, if needed, or schedule an exam with your own doctor as soon as possible.
If you don’t have obvious serious injuries — and even if you do — you may be tempted to delay this step until you know for sure where the money for your exam and treatment will come from. Unfortunately, waiting will actually hurt your chances of collecting fair compensation to cover your expenses. A timely assessment of your physical condition is essential for establishing that your injuries were caused by the Publix accident, and not some earlier or later event. Delays in care can also make your condition worse.
Whatever you do, don’t accept help from a “litigation investment company.” These companies buy the medical debt of people they believe have been injured by another company’s negligence. Then, they try to recover their investment and more in court. These arrangements can be seductive, because your earliest bills get paid outright, but in return, you’re signing away your right to the full amount you’re owed, and often the viability of your whole case. One woman lost her slip-and-fall case against Publix in 2018, because Publix was successfully able to argue that the involvement of a litigation investment company made her doctors’ testimony untrustworthy.
Other than arranging prompt medical care, your response to your Publix accident should include:
- Photographing the hazard that injured you, if you feel safe doing so
- Trading contact information with any witnesses
- Notifying Publix management of the incident (note that this does not include giving a signed, recorded, or detailed statement, or entering into a dialogue with Publix)
- Finding a qualified Publix accident lawyer to handle all further interactions with Publix
To talk to a Publix accident lawyer in Georgia about your case, just call 678-RESULT or reach out through our online chat function for a free consultation.