Toddler burned his palm in a store...

by Georgia
(Palo Alto, CA)

My 15 month old was browsing through the grocery store food and pointing what he would or wouldn't eat. It is sort of a game we play when shopping, learning names of the food.

After many "NO's", and then agreeing on some veggies, he saw a roasted whole chicken in a plastic box. He ran towards it so happy, and wanted to show me that he found what he wanted by tapping next to the chicken. Of course, a split second later he was screaming, because he burned his palm. The chickens were not on a regular shelf, but on some heated surface.

The thing is that this shelf was really close to the floor, so he could easily not only reach it, but tap with his hand on top of it. There was a miniature sign on that lowest shelf stating "Caution, Hot" that I couldn't read even with my glasses on, and it definitely wasn't possible to read by any parent with their hands full.

You really need to stop and look carefully, and probably bend over in order to read what it says, of course, if you see that it is there in the first place.

They did respond after I asked for ice and they said they'll make a report on the incident. They offered to pay for my food (which I didn't accept), and my son's hand wasn't seriously damaged (it is healing already).

BUT, that stress was completely unnecessary. It ruined one wonderful experience, the moment when my barely toddler successfully communicates with us, stressed him out, caused him to cry for about an hour, I couldn't finish my shopping because I was very upset, and in one word, I felt violated without any purpose.

He didn't learn anything out of it, he just got scared. Plus, that was one of our favorite stores, and now it's ruined for us. They said they will call tomorrow to check up on us. I wish there was something I could do to make myself and my family feel better.

I'm happy that he's not seriously hurt, so I'm not thinking about a big lawsuit, but still, somebody should be held responsible for the incident. What can/should I do?

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Toddler burned his palm in a store...":

Georgia (Palo Alto, CA):

You are right. This roasted chicken hot areas are ubiquitous and patently dangerous. Even if there was a sign ten feet tall telling shoppers to beware of the heated surface, that action is relatively irrelevant. This is so because the surface is low enough for young people, especially those of your son's age to approach, touch, and be burned.

At 15 months old your son, or any other child that age, is not expected to be able to read. The store should have known placing the hot area in a location where children might touch was wrongful and thereby negligent.

Of course, the store may argue you were contributorily negligent by permitting your son to roam away from you, but even if the that was so, the store’s negligence would outweigh your negligence by a substantial amount.

From the facts you present, there do not seem to be any medical bills resulting from the incident, nor do there appear to be any expenses related to it. Without medical expenses due to injuries, the likelihood of recovering any compensation from the store is very small.

Your son’s pain and suffering is relevant, but realistically, if he has not sustained any permanent scarring, the best you can do is notify the store manager you believe the area is patently unsafe so the store could be forewarned in the case of other children who might touch the area and be burned.

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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