Hurt While Food Shopping in Florida?: What are the Evidence Requirements to Prove Your Slip and Fall Injury Claim Against The Grocery Store or Supermarket?

Posted By on October 31, 2013

Last Update: 01/31/17

Here in Florida, just like other parts of the country, grocery stores and supermarkets are notorious for slippery floors and unkempt aisles, where customers pushing shopping carts, taking products off shelves, or testing produce lose their footing and fall on hard grocery store floors, in a slip and fall injury. These supermarket slip and falls can be minor injuries or major, life-altering traumas (especially if the victim is over the age of 60 years old).

 

grocery store

Florida supermarkets and grocery stores have dangerous spots like produce sections, where keeping the vegetables hydrated means a ever-present risk of slippery floors (notice the rubber mats in the photo). Image: Wikipedia Commons, by Wonderland)

 

Supermarket slip and falls are Florida premises liability claims

Under Florida law, claims made by the person hurt at the grocery store come under “premises liability” law and Florida law requires that the injured person provide evidence that it is more likely than not (a “preponderance of the evidence”) that the grocery store owner or operator had actual knowledge or constructive knowledge that there was a dangerous condition at the store which was the cause of the person’s injury.

This means that anyone hurt in a fall at a Florida supermarket has the burden of proving fault by showing what the grocery store owner or operation either actually knew or should have known — actual knowledge is easy enough: it’s evidence that the store manager knew there was a freezer leaking water onto the floor where the victim slipped and fell.

Watch: Grocery Store Falls – What Is The Effect On My Lawsuit If I Can’t Prove Amount Of Time Substance Was On The Floor?

What about constructive knowledge, how does a plaintiff show this? Constructive notice of the store’s dangerous condition can be shown with evidence that the problem (the danger) was there for a time period that is long enough that someone exercising ordinary care would have known about the danger and fixed it (e.g., for a leaking freezer, put up cones, mopped the area, laid down mats with rubber backing, etc.). Alternatively, the plaintiff may provide evidence that the dangerous condition happened a lot (”occurred with regularity”).

This can be done with circumstantial evidence.

The Florida Slip and Fall Law: Injury Victim Must Show Evidence of Knowledge of Dangerous Condition by Store Owner or Manager/Operator

The Florida Legislature has passed a specific law that deals with premises liability slip and falls in the State of Florida.  Florida Statute 768.0755 provides:

Premises liability for transitory foreign substances 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.

Several summers ago, the Third District Court of Appeals heard a case involving a Florida supermarket slip and fall that came under this new Florida Statute 768.0755.  In the case of Publix Supermarkets, Inc. v. Santos, where Marisol Santos sued Publix Super Markets, Inc., for injuries she sustained when she slipped and fell on “old wet spinach or some other transitory substance” at her Miami Publix grocery store, the court explained:

An injured person must now prove that the particular “business establishment” where the injury occurred had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and discovery should be restricted to information on the particular establishment….

The use of the term “business establishment” found in the current section 768.0755, instead of the use of the term “person or entity” found in the repealed section 768.0710, evidences the legislature’s intent to reject the previous language in the repealed section and construe premises liability based on the actual or constructive knowledge of the particular place or business establishment where the accident occurred….

Read: Slip And Falls in Florida – An In Depth Article

Supermarket Slip and Fall Injury Cases are Hard to Win Because of Evidence Needed By Plaintiff

In Florida, the big box food warehouses, as well as convenience stores, local grocery stores, and chain supermarkets are prime locations for people to get hurt, since they have dangerous spots just because of the business they are in: produce and meats are easily sources for liquid puddles on floors; shelves with lots of products can spill on walkways and aisles; you have been food shopping countless times — you know the dangers of the grocery supermarket.

Accordingly, managers and owners of these kinds of food stores are legally duty bound to watch out for these kinds of risky problems and keep the floors and aisles safe for their customers. They are required to inspect the floors and the displays, etc., doing all they reasonably can do so shoppers are safe.

Watch: What happens if I can’t prove how the water got on the floor in my slip and fall case?

Proving that they have failed in this duty can be difficult because the evidence must be located and shown that their routines were not followed; that their standard operations were not maintained — that the wet spot on the floor where someone slipped and fell didn’t just happen, but had been there for a long time, for example.

Read: Publix Settlements and Cases Won (On Our Website)

What Should You Do?

A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in a grocery store or supermarket slip and fall, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.

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Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
 
 
 
 
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