Black and Blue Light Special – Sporting Goods Store Not Liable for Injury Caused by Bicycle Riding Patron (LA)

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Orr v. Academy Louisiana Co, LLC (Louisiana)

Plaintiff and her daughter entered an Academy Sports and Outdoor Store in Alexandria, Louisiana to shop for shoes.  While plaintiff was attempting to help her child try on a pair of shoes, she was struck by an adult male who was riding a young girl’s bicycle.  The bicycle rider initially offered assistance to the injured plaintiff, but when she refused, he fled the scene.  After plaintiff reported the incident to the store, they located the bicycle, but could no the man involved.

Plaintiff sued the store and its insurance company, and her husband joined the litigation with a loss of consortium claim.  The defendants denied liability, asserted the fault the unknown bicycle rider, and argued comparative fault on the part of plaintiff.  After a trial on the merits, the trial court found that the store was one hundred percent at fault for the plaintiff’s accident, awarding plaintiff its jurisdictional limit of $50,000 in damages.  Defendant appealed, alleging the trial court erred: (1) in finding that plaintiff had met her burden of proof; (2) in finding that the store was negligent when the incident could not have been reasonably anticipated; and (3) in failing to assign fault on the unknown customer/tortfeasor.

The Court of Appeal of Louisiana reversed the trial court’s decision and rendered judgment in favor of the defendants.  The Court held:

“We find . . . that the trial court erred in concluding that Academy breached this duty.  . . .  “[A] business establishment is not the insurer of its patrons’ safety.” [Citation omitted.]  We agree with the trial court that it is foreseeable (and in fact encouraged) for a customer to remove a bicycle from the rack to see if it is the proper size, and it is foreseeable that the customer might ride the bicycle a short distance in furtherance of reaching that determination.  However, after reviewing the photographs of the bicycle racks and aisle, we do not find it foreseeable that a customer would ride a bicycle beyond this aisle to any other place in the store during this process.”

The Court noted that while the store did grant its customers access to bicycles, the reality is that “[a]ll sporting goods stores are stocked with merchandise which, if used improperly, could cause damage to other customers.”  If the Court were to “conclude that a customer’s access to an unlocked bicycle rack constitutes an unreasonable risk of harm[, it] would easily extrapolate to a requirement that the other basic sporting-goods merchandise such as bats, golf clubs, and balls would require similar treatment.”  The Court was unwilling to make such an extension of the store’s duty.  The Court cited the fact that even the plaintiff had testified “that ‘never in a million years’ would she expect this sort of incident to occur in Academy.”

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