How to Prove a Slip and Fall Claim at a Shopping Mall or Strip Center

Posted By on July 14, 2015

Last Update: 11/11/17

What Are The Different Types of Slip and Fall Risks and How Can A Victim Recover Compensation?

There are all sorts of risks of a slip and fall accident for someone shopping in a shopping mall or strip center.  The most common risks include:

  • falls caused by merchandise that has fallen into store aisles,
  • natural debris (rocks, stones, tree roots, broken sidewalks, etc.) that has fallen onto sidewalks or interior walkways,
  • slippery surfaces from water after a rainstorm, and
  • spilled sodas and food debris in an interior shopping mall food court

All of these risks can cause someone to fall and sustain serious injuries, requiring lengthy and expensive medical treatment and time away from work.
 
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Who Has The Burden In A Florida Slip and Fall Claim?

When someone is hurt in a slip and fall in Florida, where the accident is caused by the negligence of a property owner, the law allows a victim to receive compensation for his or her damages (pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, etc.). The goal of these laws is to help victims return to the same condition they were in prior to their accident.

However, that’s not as easy to do in Florida as it may be in other states. That’s because of a Florida law that requires the accident victim — the person who fell — to prove their case with admissible evidence that shows the store or shopping mall operator was negligent.

Specifically, the injury victim must obtain testimony and provide evidence that meet standards of admissibility which show it is more likely than not that the business owner had (1) actual knowledge or (2) constructive knowledge that there was a dangerous condition and that dangerous condition caused the victim’s injuries.

Meaning, the victim has to provide the proof of the store or mall operator’s knowledge. It’s not the store or the mall operator’s obligation to prove their knowledge. The burden is on the slip and fall victim.

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.

Read:Documentary Evidence in Florida Personal Injury Cases

How Do You Find Evidence of Fault and Who Do You Sue For Your Accident?

Pursuing a case can be more difficult for a shopper who is hurt at a shopping mall or strip center than it is for victims of other types of premises liability cases. In some instances, the accident victim may have to pursue claims against 2  different parties; one claim against the individual store and another against the owners and operators of the mall or strip center.  However, the evidence that the injured party will need to gather does not change; evidence can include video surveillance, images or video recorded on mobile phones, witness statements, store maintenance logs, cleaning materials, footwear, and more.

Furthermore, if a victim falls outside of a specific store, say in the Food Court or in the mall’s public restroom, then the victim may only have a claim against the shopping mall. Also, if the fall occurs in a parking lot, then the owner and operator of the shopping mall or strip mall is most likely the only party that can be sued, especially where the danger is not open and obvious. See – Aaron v. Palatka Mall, L.L.C., 908 So.2d 574 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005).

However, claims may also be pursued against property management companies and other third parties. For instance, in the case of Pembroke Lakes Mall v. McGruder, a woman named June McGruder went shopping for new clothes at a mall owned by Pembroke Lakes, and she was hurt in a fall in the mall’s walkway when she slipped and fell on a “clear, slippery substance” on the floor.

In that case, the victim sued both Pembroke Lakes as the owner of the mall as well as the company who had the maintenance contract to clean and maintain the mall premises, Millard Mall Services. McGruder was awarded $269,049.50 for her past and future medical expenses and her pain and suffering; the jury found Pembroke Lakes and Millard each to be 50% responsible for what happened. See, Pembroke Lakes Mall Ltd. v. McGruder, 137 So. 3d 418 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014).

Who Owes a Shopper a Duty of Care?

The stores, the mall operators, and those handling upkeep of the facilities each have a legal duty of care to shoppers. Under Florida’s premises liability law, all of these parties must protect their “business invitees” from harm.

These parties have a duty to monitor their aisles and walkways and everywhere shoppers can walk or have access to make sure that the areas are safe, and if there are dangers or hazards, they have a legal responsibility to fix them within a reasonable time. If they fail to meet that duty and someone gets hurt while shopping, then the store and the shopping mall or strip center operators can be held responsible for the accident and the damages that result from it (including pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, etc.)

What Should You Do?

A good piece of advice if you have been harmed by a slip and fall at a shopping center or strip mall, 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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