Self-service modes of business can create risks not present with over-the-counter sales. In a recent Massachusetts case Bowers v Wile’s the top Court found that a path, made up of ‘river stones’ with goods for sale displayed on it, sited right next to the walkway to the store, created an ongoing risk that someone would trip on stones that made it to the walkway – whether the store owner knew of the migrating stone or not.
The patron tripped on a stone, no one knew for how long it had been on the walk. The landlord, store owner asked that the case be thrown out – even though the patron broke her hip in the fall, because the offending pebble could have gotten to the walkway before any reasonable shopkeeper should have noticed it.
A divided Supreme Judicial Court said the very mode of doing business created the ongoing risk of rocks on the walkway and the customer who fell, could have a jury decide if the landlord was reasonable with this setup.