Hassaine v. Club Demonstration Services, Inc.Annotate this Case
While shopping at the Carmel Mountain Ranch location of Costco in San Diego, plaintiff Lilyan Hassaine slipped and fell on a slippery substance that she believed was liquid soap. Claiming serious injuries from the fall, she sued Costco and Club Demonstration Services (CDS), an independent contractor that operated food sample tables within the store. The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment filed by CDS, concluding that the company owed Hassaine no duty of care. In the court’s view, it was dispositive that CDS’s contract with Costco limited its maintenance obligations to a 12-foot perimeter around each sample table, and that Hassaine’s fall occurred outside that boundary. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding the trial court erred in concluding CDS’s contract with Costco delineated the scope of its duty of care to business invitees under general principles of tort law. Businesses have a common law duty of ordinary care to their customers that extends to every area of the store in which they are likely to shop. "While the CDS-Costco agreement may allocate responsibility and liability as a matter of contract between those parties, it does not limit the scope of CDS’s common law duty to customers. ... Breach and causation present triable factual issues here, precluding summary judgment on those grounds."