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

Posted By on July 14, 2015

Last Update: 12/29/15

What Are The Different Types of Slip and Fall Risks?

There are all sorts of risks of a slip and fall accident for someone shopping in a shopping mall or strip center, including  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, spilled sodas and food debris in an interior shopping mall food court all can cause someone to fall and sustain serious injuries.

How Do You Prove Your Slip and Fall Claim?

After a fall caused by the negligence of a property owner, a shopper in Florida has the right to have their damages (pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, etc.) paid by those who are responsible for the accident. 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 find admissible evidence about the store and the shopping mall operators.

Specifically, the injury victim must dig up testimony and documents which meet the standards of admissible evidence to show it is more likely than not that they had (1) actual knowledge or (2) constructive knowledge that there was a dangerous condition which was the cause of the person’s injury.

In other words, the shopper has to provide proof of the store or mall operator’s knowledge. Not the store or the mall operator.

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.

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 two claims; one claim against the individual store and another claim against the owners and operators of the mall or strip center.  However, the evidence that the injured party will need to gather (even if there are 2 claims) does not change and it includes surveillance or video footage, images or video recorded on mobile phones, witness statements, store maintenance records, and more.

If the injured party falls outside of a specific store, say in the Food Court or in the mall’s public restroom, then they 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.

She 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 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.)

Alan Sackrin adds value to his clients because he will go to trial when the insurance company denies coverage or doesn’t make a settlement offer that he believes is fair. Alan won’t send his client to a different lawyer to file a lawsuit, he’s the lawyer that other lawyers send their cases to when they are unable to obtain a reasonable settlement offer.

See – 5 things you get from Alan Sackrin

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.



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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