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Use Caution

Prevent liability hassles by eliminating hazards.

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This story appears in the July 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In a Massachusetts market, a woman slipped on some grapes, fell and broke her hip. She sued the market, noting that the grapes were in full view of a checkout counter but hadn't been cleaned up. She won a settlement of $137,500. In another Massachusetts case, a customer in a hardware store was descending a spiral staircase and fell, injuring his back. The owners didn't have a building permit for the stairway, which had overly narrow treads. Under the state building code, spiral stairways were not even permitted in stores. The incident cost the owners $50,000 in damages.

The law holds property owners liable when people are injured due to hazards on their property. A property owner who knows (or should have known) of a hazard and fails to fix it or warn people is liable for injuries.

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