This is a difficult question to answer because in premises liability (slip and fall claims) both the business and the customer have a responsibility to use reasonable care. In most situations, the business owner is in a better position to find, fix and/or warn of dangerous conditions on the property. However, customers are required to pain attention to what they are doing and look out for their own safety.
For instance, if a customer is walking down the aisle in a Save-A-Lot store, and sees that a bottle of olive oil broke and was dripping on the floor, and she tries to step over the spill, and falls while doing so, is that really Save-A-Lot’s problem. The customer saw the problem, knew it was dangerous, and proceeded anyway.
On the other hand, if the same customer is in Save-A-Lot and she walks by a freezer case and the next thing she knows she is on the floor in a puddle of water, then Save-A-Lot has a problem because it was in a much better position to discover that its freezer was not working properly. As you can see, Florida slip and fall cases are very fact sensitive.
Every case depends on the facts and circumstances of the event.
In a slip and fall on a foreign transitory substance like water or oil or produce, the injured person has to show that the business had notice of the problem otherwise the case will not be successful. There are two types of notice: (1) actual notice – which means a store employee actually caused the danger or knew of the danger; and (2) constructive notice – which requires the development of facts to show that the business should have discovered the dangerous condition on the floor if its employees were doing their job. This is why it is very important to understand what exactly caused the fall and to document the condition in the area.
For instance, if you fell on a liquid, it is easier to argue that the liquid was on the floor for a long period of time if there were foot prints or tracks going through the area or if the outer area of the liquid has already dried. On the other hand, if you are not able to show these issues, you will have a difficult time showing notice. If there is no notice – there is no claim.
Legally or morally? Legally a customer has no duty to tell an employee of the store that there is a spill on an aisle. Tort law does not require one person to act for the benefit of another if there is no special relationship between the people. However, for the benefit of the society in which we live, we should look out for our fellow man and report a problem if we see it.
In my experience, absolutely. If a store has a “sweep” or “inspection” procedure where employees periodically walk the aisles to find problems then the store is generally safer. The stores that are more conscientious are less likely to have these kinds of issues. For more information on problems that cause Florida slip, trip and fall claims, a consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you need by Calling Guy S. DiMartino, DC, JD.