Premises liability, a special area of personal injury law that covers landowner liability for accidents that occur on their land, commonly involves slip and fall accidents. Slip and fall accidents happen when an individual slips on a wet substance while on someone else’s property and falls, sustaining injuries. Florida law dictates that property owners are responsible for maintaining their premises in order to ensure the safety of any guests on the property. This rule applies to store owners or restaurant owners who must look out for their customers.
Stores can be very hectic environments. Hundreds of customers come and go, and there is potential for catastrophe at every turn, especially for stores with high volumes of liquids, such as grocery stores. Puddles can be caused by leaks, employees dropping liquids and not properly cleaning them, or customers spilling beverages. Under certain circumstances, the store can be responsible for the cost of injuries if a customer slips on a liquid and falls in the store. Namely:
- The victim must be an invitee. This is someone with permission to be on the property, such as a customer, employee, or contractor. A burglar does not qualify.
- The store must have known or should have known about the puddle that caused the slip and fall. A store knows of a puddle when a store employee sees the puddle or is told about the puddle. A store should know of a puddle when the store is open yet the puddle sits unattended for a prolonged period of time. Stores are expected to routinely inspect the store to make sure there are no issues. When a store fails to act with even the slightest amount of reasonable and ordinary care, it can be held liable even if it had no idea that a puddle was in aisle five.
- The puddle cannot be an open and obvious condition. Most puddles are hard to detect, which is the main reason why they cause falls. If the victim had seen the puddle, the victim would have avoided the puddle. Some puddles, however, are so noticeable and obvious to everyone that a victim who decides to step in the puddle anywhere when he or she could have easily side-stepped it will be limited from pursuing compensation. For example, a customer should know not to step in a bright blue kiddie pool filled with water when trying to get from one end of a pool supply store to another when there is an easy path around the pool.
- The store had a reasonable amount of time to clean up the puddle yet failed to do anything. If another customer spills a bottle of soda on the floor and then you immediately slip on it, the store cannot be held responsible because (1) it did not cause the puddle and (2) it had no time to clean up the puddle. However, once a puddle occurs, the store has only a “reasonable” amount of time to dry it. This is a fact-specific inquiry. Taking three days to mop up an HVAC leak in the middle of a grocery store aisle is unreasonable. However, promptly placing “CAUTION – WET FLOOR” signs around the puddle, then grabbing the mop would not be unreasonable.
- The fall has to cause injuries. If your feet slipped, you caught your balance, and you walked off, you didn’t suffer any physical or emotional injuries, save for embarrassment. There must be a real injury that you can prove to the jury in order to seek compensation.
If you slipped and fell in a store, Kaiser Romanello can assist you with pursuing compensation for your injuries from the store. Contact our Florida premises liability law firm today to discuss your case further at 844-877-8679.