Indiana Grocery Store May Be Liable For Attack Of Customer In Parking Lot

Kroger, a large U.S. grocery chain, may be responsible for an attack on a customer in one of its Indiana store's parking lots – even though the attacker was not a patron of the store. A court ruled that the customer could pursue a lawsuit against the grocer regardless of whether the attacker was a patron and that the store's management could have foreseen this injury as there had been many more like it.

Store breached duty in not protecting customers

This Indiana personal injury lawsuit stemmed from an attack at a Kroger grocery store. According to news reports, a customer was returning to her car after shopping and was attacked by a man walking in Kroger's parking lot. He punched her and threw her in the trunk of her car. Luckily, she was able to escape.

She filed a lawsuit against Kroger for her injuries, but the store claimed that it could not be held responsible for the actions of a third party who was not even a store customer. The case made its way to the Indiana Court of Appeals which ruled that the case could go forward regardless of the fact that the attacker was not a customer. It reasoned:

While the status of the person committing the criminal act may be a consideration in determining breach of duty or proximate cause, we conclude that the criminal’s status is not a determinative factor in the duty analysis. … [Kroger's] duty was sufficiently established merely by evidence that … a patron of the grocery store was assaulted in the grocery store’s parking lot as she was leaving.

Foreseeable Indiana personal injury

The plaintiff's personal injury lawyer was able to provide the court with additional information that aided in its decision. He showed that it was foreseeable to Kroger that an act of violence like this could happen. The lawyer provided the court with evidence that the town's police department had been called over 30 times over a two year period about similar acts of violence such as an indecent exposure incident, an assault on an employee, a hit and run incident, a carjacking, several store thefts and reports of thefts from vehicles in the very same parking lot.