Proving a Florida Slip and Fall Injury Claim: 4 Issues Related To What A Person Hurt in a Fall Has to do to Prove Owner Knew of Danger That Someone Could Slip and Fall and Didn’t Fix It
Posted By Alan Sackrin on December 26, 2013
Last Update: 02/01/16
In Florida, the law established both by the Florida legislature as well as Florida case precedent (opinions by the courts) allows people who have been seriously injured from falling after slipping or tripping at places like a store, restaurant, hotel, parking lot, pool, or other business, to file a claim for monetary damages. This happens because Florida’s premises liability law imposes certain responsibilities upon business and property owners.
4 Issues Related To Proving a Florida Slip and Fall Injury Claim
However, having a property owner or the party in control of premises pay compensation is not automatic. In fact, there are many times when the injured person has to fight for the owner to take responsibility and respect the legal duties created by Florida’s slip and fall laws.
1. The Plaintiff files a lawsuit – the injured victim has to pursue a claim against the owner by using the court system
In Florida, a plaintiff in a slip and fall files a lawsuit based upon negligence. Here, as explained in Westchester Exxon v. Valdes, 524 So.2d 452, 454 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988), the Plaintiff has the job to prove with admissible evidence the following things:
(1) a duty to the plaintiff;
(2) the defendant’s breach of that duty;
(3) injury to the plaintiff arising from the defendant’s breach; and
(4) damage caused by the injury to the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty.
2. The Plaintiff has the job of providing evidence to support his or her claim – the injured victim must gather documents, video, witness testimony and even expert testimony that can be admitted under Florida evidence law. The owner does not have to do anything until the injured, hurt person has presented sufficient evidence of his or her claim.
(1) before the defendant has to explain or show anything, the plaintiff has the “burden of proof” to support he or she has a valid legal claim;
(2) as explained by the Florida Supreme Court, in slip and fall injury cases “it must be shown that the owner negligently failed where the law, custom, or innate danger requires diligence.” (Heps v. Burdine’s, Inc., 69 So.2d 340, 341-42 (Fla.1954).)
The type of proof needed also depends on the location of the slip and fall. Did the victim’s injury occur at a:
- grocery store
- shopping center or strip mall
- big box store, like Walmart
- theme park
- night club
- parking lot
Each of these locations have elements that are particular to there premises and those elements must be addressed in order to prove the business owner, property owner or entity in control of the premises is negligent.
3. Florida Statutes on Plaintiff’s Job to Prove His Case
The Florida Legislature passed law that shifted this burden of proof to the plaintiff. The injured person has to show that the owner had notice — actual or constructive — that there was a dangerous situation on the property that might cause someone to fall. Florida Statutes 768.0755.
4. The Delgado Slip and Fall at the Laundromax Example
As explained in in the case of Delgado v. Laundromax, the injured person failed to prove their case under Florida law where she had slipped on the floor of a laundromat, because (1) the plaintiff did not know where the water came from, (2) she did not see water “anywhere else other than where she slipped”, and (3) she did not know “how long the water was on the floor before she slipped” or (4) of anyone at the defendant’s operations “who knew the water was on the floor before she walked in”.
We therefore agree with the trial court that the evidence in the record shows, to the exclusion of all permissible inferences, that Laundromax was not negligent. There is no evidence that Laundromax had actual notice of the liquid on the floor before Delgado fell. Therefore, Delgado was required to present some evidence Laundromax had constructive notice of the hazard. Because the mere presence of water on the floor is not enough to establish constructive notice, see Broz v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 546 So.2d 83, 83 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989), the record must contain additional facts in support of liability, to create a permissible inference upon which Delgado could rely in defense against Laundromax’s motion for summary judgment. See Winn Dixie Stores, Inc. v. White, 675 So.2d 702, 703 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996).
There were, however, no additional facts presented that would support constructive notice. In fact, all the facts regarding the spill suggest that it was not on the floor for a long period of time prior to Delgado’s slip and fall. Cf. Cisneros v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 754 So.2d 819, 820 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000) (finding decisive, in reversing summary judgment, that plaintiff testified she observed “a few wheel tracks and several footprints had been made” in the pool of the substance in which she slipped); Newalk v. Fla. Supermarkets, Inc., 610 So.2d 528, 529 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992) (finding testimony that spots on the floor “appeared old,” was enough evidence to show notice); Teate v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 524 So.2d 1060, 1061 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988) (finding that where plaintiff slipped and fell on peas in store’s frozen food aisle, that water on the floor around the peas could support an inference the peas had been on the floor long enough to thaw).
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed by a slip and fall, is to at least 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.
- What Is The Best Accident Claim Advice That I Can Share?
- Slip/Trip And Falls In Florida – An In Depth Look
- What Type of Proof Do You Need for Your Florida Slip and Fall Claim?
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.