Posted By Alan Sackrin on June 23, 2015
Last Update: 01/31/17
Going to the grocery store – it’s something we all do. Whether it’s taking the full grocery list to buy a week’s work of food for family meals, or running into the local supermarket or corner store to grab diapers or beer or milk, shopping at the grocery store or supermarket chain is a common denominator for most every adult.
Because we frequent these stores so often, most of are aware, or at least we should be, of the risks we face when we go to a grocery store or supermarket — a slip and fall (aka a trip and fall) that can result in someone being hurt, sometimes seriously. Things like slippery floors, food debris and obstructed aisles can cause shoppers to lose their footing and fall down.
People get hurt all of the time in stores like Publix, Walmart, Costco, or Winn Dixie, by things like:
- Spilled shampoo or soap in the hair care aisle
- Fallen fruits or vegetables in the produce aisle
- Water spray hitting the floor making the floor slippery in the produce section
- Canned goods dropped in the aisle
- Broken bottles in the aisle (like pickles, mayonnaise, peanut butter)
- Bags that have been opened with contents tossed into the aisle (cookies, chips, etc.)
- Nuts, seeds, or candies dropped out of display bins.
In Florida, slip and fall accidents in grocery stores are covered by our “premises liability” law; if an injured person can meet the law’s requirements of proof for a claim, then Florida law will hold the grocery store or supermarket or corner grocery owner or operator liable for the injured person’s damages, for things like:
- pain and suffering,
- medical expenses (past and future),
- lost wages, and
- other economic and non-economic items.
Common injuries from slip and falls include:
- Hand and wrist injuries,
- Foot fractures,
- Head injuries,
- Broken or bruised hips,
- Lacerations and cuts, and
- Ankle injuries.
What is Your Burden of Proof When You Fall Down at the Grocery Store?
First of all, an injury victim will have to provide evidence that the grocery store was at fault because it had actual knowledge or constructive knowledge that there was a dangerous condition at the store which was the cause of the person’s injury. 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.
What does this mean to someone who fell down at the supermarket? In order to recover compensation, the victim must provide evidence that the store was at fault because it knew of the danger with actual knowledge, or that the store had “constructive knowledge” and provide evidence that the danger was there long enough that someone exercising ordinary care would have known about it and fixed the problem.
How Do You Find Evidence That Grocery Stores Are At Fault For Your Accident?
Grocery stores have a legal duty of care — by law, they are supposed to have people whose job involves checking the store’s floors and all the aisles routinely to make sure that they are safe, and to mop up any spills and move any obstacles in the store aisles. Victims have to show that these employees did not do their job here, and as a result there was an accident (this can be accomplished through discovery, including depositions and reviewing videotape footage of the accident scene).
For instance, in the case of Grizzard v. Colonial Stores, Inc., someone went into the grocery store and fell down on “… partially frozen, partially liquified orange juice concentrate.” The court held that since the person who got hurt in the fall knew that the juice concentrate wasn’t put on the floor by anyone working for the grocery store, they had to provide admissible evidence that the stuff was on the grocery store’s floor “… for sufficient length of time to charge grocery store with constructive knowledge of its existence….”
How can you prove something like this, when you are the one who got hurt and you don’t work at the grocery store? As mentioned above, the victim will have to find evidence through things like witness statements, surveillance video, and even the store’s own internal files and records.
It can be done. Consider the victory by the injured person in Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. v. Guenther, where a man who was shopping for groceries with his wife and daughter fell and hurt his knee when he slipped on some clear liquid left on the floor of a grocery store aisle.
1. The victim provided evidence to the court that this clear liquid “… made a puddle about three feet long, appeared dirty and had scuff marks and several grocery cart marks running through it….”
2. He also provided evidence that the grocery store’s manager worked from an “...elevated platform within the store and by looking at spot where claimant fell, would have been able to see the liquid….”
Even though there was no evidence of how long that stuff was on the floor, the fact that the victim was able to show where the store manager was – and how big that puddle had been that caused him to fall, the court found for the injured man and the store had to pay for his accident damages.
Adding Value to Grocery Store Slip And Fall Claims
An experienced Florida personal injury lawyer can add value for victims of grocery store slip and fall accidents not only in sharing how insurance companies normally respond to these claims, but also with regard to assisting with finding the proof needed to prevail with a claim, including obtaining surveillance video and maintenance logs.
What Should You Do Now?
A good piece of advice if you have been injured is to at least speak with an experienced lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise when seeking compensation, including 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, including what information you should include with a demand letter.
- What is the best accident claim advice that I can share?
- How do the clothes I am wearing affect a slip and fall?
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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