You’re walking through the grocery store, looking for the last item on your list. Somehow, you missed it on your first pass though. You march through, retracing your steps, with the discipline of a trained soldier through the fervor of the capitalist battlefield. Unfortunately, your advance is disrupted by a jar of pickles that exploded in aisle 5. You slip on the wet floor.
Months later, you seek to sue the store for its negligence in not promptly picking up the spill. However, Florida made that more difficult over the summer. On July 1, 2012 the law regarding slip-and-falls changed, requiring a plaintiff to prove that the defendant knew of the conditions that resulted in the fall or that the defendant should have known an accident would happen due to recurring conditions.
For example, if an entryway to a business has a floor that could become slick after a rain storm, and the proprietor fails to adequately warn or take measures to prevent a fall, then they may be liable.
Florida Statute section 768.0755 defines the limits of liability for “transitory foreign substances” (spills) in a business establishment.
(1) If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it. Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence 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.
(2) This section does not affect any common-law duty of care owed by a person or entity in possession or control of a business premises.
The effect is that the law makes plaintiffs’ cases tougher in some instances. An even more pragmatic effect is that businesses are more unlikely to settle unless there is direct evidence that they knew or should have known about the conditions that lead to the accident.
For these businesses, they see the new law as a shift back towards fairness. However, others disagree. Persons who are in pain or are injured after a slip-and-fall are not in a position to gather the necessary evidence. At that point, they’re generally only interested in receiving the necessary aid to end the pain or repair the damage. That’s why it’s important to have an attorney that understands the burden of proof and can investigate these claims.
Overall, the new law does nothing to prevent these accidents. It simply gives these businesses a metaphorical tree to hide behind and claim, “I didn’t do it!”
Matthew A. Dolman is a Clearwater personal injury attorney. His firm, the Dolman Law Group, handles cases for victims of injuries, including slip-and-fall as well as trip-and-fall accidents. The Dolman Law Group offers free consultations and case evaluations for individuals who are victims of slip-and-fall accidents. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact our Clearwater Office at: (727) 451-6900.