Barnes & Noble is a great company.
According to the retailer's website, it is the "No. 1 online bookseller for quality," and, the second-largest coffeehouse in the United States.
With sales of about 445 million books per year, and more than 100,000 customer service requests every day, it's no wonder their stores are typically jam-packed with customers.
Of course, with that kind of consumer traffic, accidents are inevitable. So, we weren't surprised to learn of Kayla Willis's claim against the bookseller for injuries she suffered on July 7, 2001, when the youngster hit her head on a wooden bench in the children's section.
At a deposition, Kayla's mother testified that it was her opinion that the injury was caused by "a snag in the carpet." But there were no defects evident in any of the photographs taken of the area shortly after the incident. Nor was that claim proffered in any of the plaintiffs' prior submissions. Yet, the New York County Civil Court refused to dismiss the case in response to the bookseller's motion.
On appeal, plaintiffs shifted their theory and alleged that the bench placement exacerbated an otherwise "innocuous fall." The Appellate Term, First Department, was neither convinced nor amused. It reversed the Civil Court's order and dismissed the case, noting as follows:
Summary judgment dismissal is warranted, since plaintiffs failed to raise a triable issue as to whether defendant created a dangerous condition. There was no evidence that the placement of the bench next to a table in the bookstore was a trap or hidden hazard ... While the placement of the bench may have furnished the occasion upon which the infant plaintiff was injured, it was not a legal cause of the accident ... Nor was there evidence from which a factfinder could conclude that the accident was caused by the condition or shape of the bench ... Thus, plaintiffs established no factual basis from which an inference of negligence could be drawn against defendant. To hold that defendant created a reasonably foreseeable hazard by providing benches for children to sit on in a reading area of its bookstore "would be to stretch the concept of foreseeability beyond acceptable limits" ....
Trying every trick in the book, could lead to an appellate court throwing the book right back at you.
For a copy of the Appellate Term's decision, please use this link: Willis v. Barnes & Noble, Inc.