In 2008, a Walmart employee was trampled to death when the store opened at 5:00 a.m. Friday morning. As the store opened, thousands of shoppers rushed into the store with “hundreds of people” stepping on, and killing, the fallen employee.
Perhaps in an effort to avoid Black Friday deaths, or more likely in an attempt to increase Black Friday sales, many Chicago area stores have announced that they are opening their stores even earlier for Black Friday — oftentimes on Thanksgiving Thursday.
For example, Toys R Us will open at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, reports the Chicago Tribune. Wal-Mart opens at 10 p.m. And at midnight, Macy's, Best Buy, Kohl's and Target, along with most major shopping malls will open.
But even if stores open earlier, they should still be prepared for a crowd of shoppers who chose to forego their Thanksgiving turkey to get the best holiday deals.
So stores should take steps to ensure customer safety like having adequate staff on hand and crowd planning measures regardless of what time they open. In addition, stores should have a plan for what happens when the store reaches capacity and what happens when an emergency happens.
If a store fails to take such action, it could be exposed to liability. Under the legal theory of premises liability, a store must take certain steps to ensure the safety of its customers. So if they expect large crowds, they should ensure there are safety protocols to handle the crowds.
Even though stores are opening earlier and earlier, they should still take steps to ensure customer safety and avoid Black Friday deaths and injuries. Failure to take such action, could lead to significant legal liability.