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Kates Nussman Rapone Ellis & Farhi, LLP

Safety First ? Or Last

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been in the news recently, for more than baseball fans. There is the front page spectacle of the owner's divorce and the drama of whether he will be forced to sell the team because of its terrible financial condition. But nothing has been worse than the brutal beating of a fan of an opposing team in the parking lot at Dodgers Stadium after a game. The victim's family has filed a lawsuit against the Dodgers claiming negligence in the maintenance of its parking lot.

While lawyers argue back and forth about the merits of the case, it's easy for a non-lawyer to see how much liability owners of amusements, sports teams and large venues really expose themselves to on a daily basis. But other businesses, like large and small retail stores, also have many people visiting every day. The "Dodgers story" should give New Jersey business owners pause to think about how they maintain their properties and what they can do to avoid an unfortunate situation. If you are the owner of a business that has dozens, hundreds or thousands of customers at a time, you should do a "safety check."

When you open your doors to the public, you also opening your business and yourself to exposure to liability for injuries. But with diligence and planning, you can make sure your customers are safe and that your business is secure. For example, think about your parking facilities. How safe is your parking lot? Does it have appropriately sized, lined parking spaces? Is there enough room for cars to pass, yet still be safe for people walking in the lot? Are events scheduled in the parking lot, with people in close contact with others? Do you need cameras or security? Is the lighting adequate? You can't plan for every possibility, but it's important to plan ahead and think about potential legal liabilities. Hiring a safety expert to look at your business might be helpful. Or making a checklist yourself and following through on it should allow you to focus on other things-like making money and growing your business.

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