As a personal injury attorney with 18 years of experience, I have handled my share of slip and fall cases. When I say I have handled them, I mean I have not only represented clients injured from a slip and fall, but I have extensively litigated these cases in Court. I have even argued slip and fall cases on appeal. When I take a slip and fall case I am selective, because they are amongst the toughest to prove and win.
Many attorneys, even those that “specialize” in personal injury negligence cases, will not handle slip and fall claims of any kind. I suspect this is because there is ahigh probability that a slip and fall case will wind-up in litigation, thus requiring a lot of time and money on the part of the trial attorney. Personally, I like a good challenge and I am willing to fight for clients even in difficult cases, as long I believe there is merit to the claim. Therefore, I still take slip and fall cases, and in fact I am currently representing many persons injured due to a slipping at a business or store.
This blog will briefly set forth why slip and fall cases are so difficult, and why they became even more difficult after 2010.
For purposes of this blog, let’s work with the following hypothetical:
Jane is a 50 year old female, and after a hard day at work she runs by her local supermarket for some groceries for her family. While walking along the produce section, she slips and falls on a liquid, which is discovered to be orange juice that has leaked from a carton on the display. Jane suffers multiple injuries requiring extensive medical treatment.
Now, if I were to run that scenario by the vast majority of the public, they would likely automatically believe, “The store is responsible!” After all, the juice was a hazard, and Jane didn’t create it. While the store may certainly be legally liable, it is not as “black and white” as most might think.
A business like a grocery store has two specific duties to it’s customers:
i) To maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition for invitees, which includes inspections for unsafe hazards like spilled liquids, and
ii) To warn of any concealed hazards known to the business owner, but unknown to the customer.
In order for the grocery store to be legally liable, Jane must prove one of two things:
1) That the store (i.e., one of it’s owners, employees, or agents) had actual knowledge of the hazard. In other words, someone from the store knew about the juice; or
2) That the store (i.e., one of it’s owners, employees, or agents) had “constructive knowledge,” meaning that someone from the store should have known. This will typically involve showing that the store did not have proper mechanisms of inspection in place.
If Jane can prove that an employee knew about the spill, then her case is much easier if there was no warning, such as a wet floor sign. However, most store employees and managers will never admit to knowledge, so many times these cases come down to the far more difficult “constructive knowledge.”
As of 2010, the applicable statute in Florida is §768.0755. As for constructive knowledge, the statute states this can be proven by a showing that:
(a) The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition; or,
(b) The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
This statute effectively eroded some favorable law that had existed for the injured slip and fall victim.
There are many ways that an experienced personal injury attorney will seek to prove his or her case, and show one of the two items above. For example, video surveillance can be quite helpful in proving how long a liquid had been on the floor prior to a client’s fall. However, the thing to understand is that Jane does not automatically recover from the store because there was a hazard. She must prove that they knew about it, or should have known about it. These cases require an experienced trial attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in slip and fall cases, and who is not afraid of litigation to gain the evidence necessary to give his or her client the best shot at winning.
If you have been injured in New Port Richey (Pasco County), or anywhere in the Tampa Bay area as a result of a slip and fall, I offer a free consultation and will go through your case with you in detail. You can put my years of experience to work for you at no cost, and you will never owe me a fee unless I take the case and we win.