What is the Attractive Display Doctrine in Slip and Fall Cases?

Pizzazz makes a difference when it comes to retail.

Competitive business owners hoping to draw in neighborhood foot traffic often employ flashy window displays to highlight merchandise. What shopkeepers and their prospective clientele should know is that such attention-grabbers can affect slip and fall cases.

Premises liability cases can be complicated and can involve more than one or two single factors. One aspect of slip and fall cases that can be overlooked in Indiana is the attractive display doctrine, known elsewhere as the "attractive nuisance doctrine."

What is the attractive display doctrine?

Very simply put, it means that the invitee (the injury victim) could have been distracted from watching his step if he was looking at a store merchandise display meant to capture his attention. While the customer may usually be watching for obstacles like spills or obstructions, a flashy display may take his mind off of his surroundings.

Colorful and ornate window displays can be works of art, especially when it comes to major retailers, such as Macy's and Nordstrom. These companies spend thousands of dollars hiring expert designers to create scenes to convey messages related to their brand. They are designed specifically to capture the imagination of anyone who passes by.

Lavish, decorative installations are perhaps most common during the Christmas holiday season, when snow, ice and slush can be present on streets, sidewalks and in parking lots, further increasing the potential for slip and fall accidents. But attorneys and courts have recognized the danger inherent in such advertising along city streets.

In these cases, an attorney may be able to argue that the store owner and defendant created a distraction that put customers in danger. If the defendant is aware that a customer will have their eyes on the display, then they should clear the way of all dangerous conditions - the customer can assume that the way is safe since there are distractions around him. In other words, the property owner has a duty to the subject on foot to keep the premises reasonably safe.

Merchants must be vigilant about obstructions that lie in the path of their customers, especially when aggressive sales techniques are in play. Children can be especially vulnerable to such conditions.

Generally, those who enter another person's property gain three types of status:

  • Invitees are granted an express invitation, such as business owners visitors and others who serve an interest to either party; this includes shoppers
  • Lincees enter the property with consent of the owner but no business purpose
  • Trespassers enter the property without permission

Courts have ruled that property owners have a duty to prevent unreasonable risk of harm to invitees and licensees and, in some cases, even to trespassers. Pedestrians, meanwhile, should beware of the shiny objects in the window.

If you have been involved in a slip and fall accident that might relate to the attractive display doctrine, contact our team of Indiana injury attorneys for a free consultation.

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