Liability if I left a shopping cart in the parking lot and it rolled into a car?

by Dess
(Chandler, AZ)

When I left the grocery store I parked my cart facing north right outside of the exit door, along with the 8 other shopping carts customers had left there. There was no proper place to leave my cart outside the store, and I wasn't able to take it back inside because the door shut and there was a huge "Do Not Enter" sign on the door.

I made sure the cart I was leaving was facing away from the parking lot, in case for some reason it was nudged by someone it would move the direction the cart was facing.

Somehow as I was walking away from my cart it managed to turn east and roll down the side walk and hit someone's parked car. We notified management who acknowledged and brought to our attention that there is a slope, but it is very hard to see.

Is the minor damage to the car my fault or the store's fault for not having a proper place to leave the carts (and also failing to gather carts in a timely matter)? Will I have to pay for the damage? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Liability if I left a shopping cart in the parking lot and it rolled into a car?":

Dess (Chandler, AZ):

From the facts you present, the store is liable, and not you. There was no place designated by the store for shoppers to leave their shopping carts. Moreover, you took every reasonable precaution to place your cart away from cars. You had no legal duty to know about the store parking lot’s "slope."

Speak with the store manager and tell the manager you are not happy about the situation. Whether there was a slope or not is legally irrelevant.

Hopefully the car owner won't pursue you for the damage to his or her car. Doing so would be a futile exercise. You did not intentionally or negligently cause the cart to roll into the car. As a result, you have no liability for the damage to the driver’s car.

The store likely has video of the parking lot. The video may show exactly what happened and will confirm the absence of your intention or negligence causing the car to be damaged. Ask the manager to review the video with you. Once that occurs it will be obvious to both of you, the damage was not your fault.

Also, immediately after the incident you reported it to the store manager. When you did the store manager likely created an "incident report." That report should contain the facts of the incident as reported by you and recorded by the manager or other employee who completed the incident report.

The store carries property damage and liability insurance. That insurance should cover the damage to the driver’s car.

If the car owner decides to pursue anyone for the accident the owner will have a legal "burden of proof" to show someone’s actions or omissions were the direct and proximate cause of the accident. Proving that link against you will be difficult, if not impossible.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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