Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

by : 
Kim Perkins
October 1, 2011

Question: A customer tripped in our store and banged her knee. We helped her and put ice on it right away. There did not appear to be any merchandise in the way or a rug or anything, so no one is sure why she tripped. Now she is talking about suing us for the cost of her doctor visit, X-ray, and so on. I don’t think we did anything wrong. Should I have somehow seen this coming? How should I handle this?

Answer: Unfortunately, anyone can bring a lawsuit, regardless of whether the case has merit. Perhaps the customer really feels you are at fault for some reason, or maybe she sees this as a way to pay her medical bills or make money. But before you get too excited, know that more people threaten legal action than actually follow through. She would have to get a lawyer to take her case and, given your description of the event, that might be a challenge. So don’t get overly concerned about something that has not occurred.

Should you have seen this coming? How could you? Especially if your aisles and floor were clear. What you can do to protect yourself in the future is purchase an umbrella insurance policy that will cover you for this kind of unforeseen circumstance. Talk to your insurance agent. Umbrella policies are not expensive—usually a few hundred dollars for a million dollars’ worth of coverage—and are well worth the peace of mind they provide.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to