< Back to Blog

Brandon Glanz and Emma Redinger

Brandon Glanz and Emma Redinger

June 14, 2023

Eighth Circuit: Businesses Need Not be an Insurer of Absolute Customer Safety

In its June 2 ruling in Oien v. Home Depot,1 the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed Minnesota law that businesses must keep premises reasonably safe, not guard against all possible consequences.

The plaintiff, Michael Oien, was injured at a Home Depot store. Oien was pushing a flat cart out of the store. Directly in front of Oien, a Home Depot employee assisted him by pushing a second cart. Allegedly, the automatic exit doors opened as the employee approached and then closed while Oien was walking through the exit, hitting him in the shoulder and causing a tear in his right rotator cuff, among other injuries.

Oien pursued a negligence claim against Home Depot.2 The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all claims, finding that (1) Oien failed to satisfy his burden of establishing there was a dangerous condition, and (2) the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur could not overcome this flaw in Oien’s case. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision and affirmed its reasoning and holdings.

No Reason for Home Depot to Know a Dangerous Condition Existed

First, the Eighth Circuit held that Oien was unable to provide any evidence to establish that Home Depot either caused a dangerous condition or should have known that a dangerous condition existed. Oien argued that Home Depot should have known of an issue with the doors, but he offered no evidence in support of this assertion. Relying on Minnesota precedent, the court reaffirmed that “[n]egligence must be predicated on what should have been reasonably anticipated and not merely on what happened.”3 A business has a duty to keep premises reasonably safe, meaning it must guard against only those consequences which are reasonably anticipated in the normal course of events—but the duty does not extend to all possible consequences.

Negligence Could Not be Inferred by Oien’s Injury

Second, the court held that res ipsa loquitur (i.e. allowing for the finding of negligence from the nature of a given accident) was inapplicable to Oien’s claims. The court acknowledged that an automatic sliding door does not ordinarily close while someone is passing through it, but Oien was unable to offer any evidence to support his assertion that a door malfunction caused his injury. Thus, the court held, that when an “injury could have been caused with substantially equal probability from other causes as well as any acts of defendants, facts, other than just the fact of injury itself from which defendant’s negligence may be inferred, must exist before a res ipsa loquitur issue can be submitted to the jury.”4

Ultimately, the holding serves as a reminder that a business’ duty is to keep customers reasonably safe, not to be “an insurer of safety.” If you have any questions regarding how this case could impact your duties or business practices, please contact a Haws-KM attorney. We’re here to help.

Read the full opinion here


  1. Oien v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., No. 22-2374, 2023 WL 3769234 (8th Cir. June 2, 2023).
  2. Oien filed suit in Minnesota state court against Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. and Stanley Access Technologies, LLC. The action was removed to federal court by the defendants. The parties agreed that Oien’s claims were controlled by Minnesota law.
  3. Id. at *3 (8th Cir. June 2, 2023) (citing Johnson v. Evanski, 22 N.W.2d 213, 215 (Minn. 1946)).
  4. Id. (citing Hoven v. Rice Mem’l Hosp., 396 N.W. 2d 569, 572 (Minn. 1986)).

Authors: Brandon Glanz and Emma Redinger*

*Emma Redinger, a law clerk at HAWS-KM, attends the University of Minnesota Law School (J.D. expected May 2024).



Haws-KM News



The information contained in this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice on any matter.

The transmission and receipt of information contained on this website, in whole or in part, or communication with HAWS-KM, P.A. or any of its employees via the Internet or e-mail through this website does not constitute or create an attorney/client relationship between us and any recipient. You should not send us any confidential information in response to this website as such information will not be held in confidence. Any communication to this website does not create an attorney/client relationship, and whatever you disclose to us will not be privileged or confidential unless we have agreed to act as your legal counsel in writing. The material on this website may provide information regarding developments in the law but is not legal advice. The content and interpretation of the law addressed on the website is subject to change. HAWS-KM, P.A. disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all the contents of this website to the fullest extent permitted by law. Websites, such as this one, are considered attorney advertising, not legal advice. For legal advice, seek professional legal counsel.