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You are an auctioneer hosting an auction at a location in your town. It’s a hardware store liquidation, held at the former retail location. You will be “selling” the inventory live with online bidding available.

With the auction starting in about 3 hours, cars and trucks are already lining the street, and dozens of people are soon previewing today’s lineup. At 11:00 a.m. the auction begins with your announcements including the terms and conditions of the event.

After a few hours, the auction is still progressing with about another 500 lots remaining. Just then, your cashier approaches you and says, “Someone has fallen … she seems okay, but can you have Trey sell for a while and talk with her?”

You approach the woman who has fallen and she’s standing against the wall, with one hand holding herself up. “Are you okay?” you ask. She replies, “I think so … there was some kind of fluid on the floor … it apparently leaked … I slipped.”

The auction continues … and concludes. You close up a few hours later and head home. The next day, your phone rings and it’s an attorney representing the woman who fell at your auction yesterday.

This is how these types of things can occur. We have held over the years that auctioneers have a duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for attendees to participate in a live auction. If they don’t it’s possible they would be held liable for negligence.

As such, this could be a “slip and fall” situation, a sharp corner on a shelving unit, sound system way too loud, or in our environment today, Coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns. Again, in these cases, did the auctioneer/seller provide a reasonably safe environment?

Given our premise, the other questions would include if our negligence was a cause of the injury. In other words, did something we did (or didn’t) do cause this woman to slip and fall, for example?

Auctions and safe locations 05/10/20

Auctioneers need to carefully analyze if their auction house, site, or location is reasonably safe for attendees. This would include the possibility of Coronavirus (COVID-19) issues even if the political subdivision governing that location says it’s okay to open …

As we’ve noted prior, the claim can simply be that your negligence caused someone’s injury. In order for you to be held liable, the plaintiff will likely need to prove your “proximate cause” and their associated damages.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.