I slipped and fell on a wet floor at Publix. They are clearly negligent, right?
Author: Attorney Jason Macri
Many people slip and fall at grocery stores like Publix due to a wet floor. There are many reasons why a floor at one of these stores may be excessively slippery or dangerous. A liquid product may have leaked from its container. A nearby refrigerator or freezer may be leaking fluid. Condensation from an AC unit or even a leaky roof may allow water to accumulate on the floor. The list goes on and on as to how a dangerous condition may be created. Unfortunately, proof that a floor was slippery alone is not enough proof to win in court. Under Florida law, a Plaintiff must also prove that the store had notice of the dangerous condition.
Proving a store had notice of a dangerous condition is not as easy as it sounds. Typically, a store employee is not willing to admit at their deposition that they not only knew there was a puddle of water on the floor but that they did nothing about it after finding out. If an employee was honest enough to admit that they knew about it, the injured person would be able to prove that the store had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition. Most employees will deny any knowledge of a dangerous condition and may even deny the incident occurred at all. In these cases, proving negligence will be an uphill battle.
Assuming you will not be able to prove the store had actual knowledge, you must at least be able to prove that the store had constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition in order to prevail. Proving a store had constructive knowledge is akin to proving that a store should have known about the existence of a dangerous condition. The main way to go about proving constructive notice is to prove that the dangerous condition existed for a sufficient enough length of time that the Defendant would have known about the condition had they been exercising reasonable care.
Proving constructive knowledge is not necessarily any easier than proving actual knowledge. Most of the Defendant’s witnesses will probably say that they are very careful and follow a strict protocol regarding keeping their floors clean. They will likely say that they frequently check the floors to ensure that they are not dangerous and, if they do find a dangerous condition, they will put up caution cones and clean the spill up right away. Keep in mind that most people do not want to be put in a position where they get fired from their jobs because they were not following protocol. Even if the employee does not work for the Defendant any longer, they may still insist that proper protocol was followed because they may be worried about getting sued themselves.
Most times, the only way to allege constructive notice is through the testimony of the injured person or independent witnesses. Sometimes these witnesses will notice characteristics of the puddle that will lend toward the argument that the dangerous condition existed for a sufficient enough length of time. There may be footprints leading away from the puddle, showing that someone had been there before. Maybe some dirt or other debris has accumulated in the puddle, lending toward the argument that it had been there for some time. Without any testimony as to the amount of time that the dangerous condition existed or proof that it had been there for a sufficient amount of time, the Plaintiff will not be able to prevail in a Florida courtroom in a slip and fall case.
If a person has been injured in a slip and fall, it is extremely important for them to consult an experienced slip and fall attorney. There are many legal pitfalls that must be avoided in order to successfully proceed in a Florida courtroom in any slip and fall case. Failing to recognize any one of these pitfalls may result having your case dismissed forever.