The Florida legislature enacted a law in 2010 that addresses requirements in slip and fall cases. In doing so, the legislature placed the burden of proof onto the injured person in any slip and fall case. Now, under the current law, a person who slips on a foreign substance must prove that the business had knowledge of the dangerous condition. This is a departure from the previous statute, which only required the plaintiff to prove that a business acted negligently by failing to exercise reasonable care over the premises. The Appeals Court for the First District recently analyzed the new law in a case where a plaintiff claimed to have slipped on rain at the entrance of a grocery store.
In Walker v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., the plaintiff made a claim that a grocery store failed to maintain its premises when it allowed a rain-slicked floor to exist for a sufficient length of time. The plaintiff, who was shopping at the establishment, claimed that she was returning a motorized cart to the entrance of the store when it began to mist outside. According to the plaintiff, she returned the cart in the appropriate location and began to exit the store when she fell. She testified that she did not observe any water or other liquid present on the floor before she fell, but unnoticeable drops of water were present and caused her to slip. The evidence at trial included surveillance footage showing two store employees inspecting the area in which the plaintiff fell, as well as the presence of an umbrella rack that had been placed nearby. However, testimony from the store’s manager also indicated that no mats had been placed in the entry-way, which was the store’s standard procedure in the event of rainy weather.
The store requested that the trial court dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, arguing that Florida law required her to prove the store had knowledge, either actual or constructive, of the presence of a foreign substance. The law provides that constructive knowledge may be proven by showing that a dangerous condition had existed for a sufficient length of time such that a business would have known about the condition in the exercise of ordinary care. Another way to prove constructive knowledge is by evidence that the particular condition complained about is one that occurs with regularity and is therefore foreseeable. The trial court granted the store’s motion, stating that the plaintiff’s evidence and testimony were speculative and vague.
On appeal, the First District held that because the plaintiff had confirmed that the water droplets on the floor were unnoticeable, and that it had just begun to rain immediately prior to her fall, she failed to prove that the store could have known about the wet condition of the floor. The appeals court noted that the plaintiff could neither show that the rainy conditions occurred with any regularity, or that the condition lasted long enough to give notice to store employees.
If you or someone you love has suffered from injuries resulting from a slip and fall accident in or around Fort Meyers, Naples, or Cape Coral, you need a skilled attorney on your side. The Southwest Florida personal injury attorneys at Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano keep up with recent legal changes and developments in order to present your case in the most positive light. For a complimentary case evaluation, contact us or call toll-free at (800) 238-7442 today.