A supermarket chain was not negligent in a case in which a woman injured her toe when she rammed her shopping cart into a fire extinguisher and it fell on her foot, says an appellate court in upholding a lower court ruling Thursday.
Bambe Cae Johnson was pushing a shopping cart through the aisles of a store operated by Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer Inc. in August 2010, with her view partially obscured by her granddaughter's car seat in the front of the cart, when the accident occurred, according to the ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in Bambe Cae Johnson v. Meijer Inc.
As Ms. Johnson continued walking, at some point she turned her head to look behind her and the handle of the shopping cart struck a fire extinguisher mounted on a column. The impact caused the extinguisher to fall, injuring Ms. Johnson's toe, according to the appellate ruling.
Ms. Johnson sued the supermarket chain for negligence in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, where a magistrate judge granted Meijer summary judgment dismissing the case.
Ms. Johnson appealed to the 6th Circuit. However, a unanimous three-judge panel of the appellate court agreed with the lower court.
It is “undisputed that the fire extinguisher was mounted in plain view. And we agree with the district court that the risk that the extinguisher might dislodge if struck by a loaded shopping cart — thereby inducing gravity to drop the extinguisher to the floor — was open and obvious,” said the ruling.
“Moreover, Johnson has no evidence — direct or circumstantial — that would allow a jury to find that Meijer was somehow negligent in the manner it secured the extinguisher,” the ruling said.
To the contrary, a Meijer employee said in an affidavit that the extinguisher had been inspected by local building code officials and the local fire marshal, and that it had complied with all applicable state and other codes.
It “was foreseeable that even a properly secured fire extinguisher might fall to the floor if struck by a loaded shopping cart,” said the ruling in affirming the decision by the federal court's magistrate judge.