Is A Loose Object on the Floor A “Dangerous Condition?”

Posted By on December 1, 2015

Last Update: 12/22/15

Here in Florida, premises liability law (statutes and court cases) protects people who fall and get hurt  due to the fault of another. If someone is hurt in a “slip and fall” or a “trip and fall”, then Florida law will allow them to recover all types of damages that result from the fall, like pain and suffering, lost wages, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement, past and future medical bills, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, etc.

It’s rare for those responsible for a slip and fall accident to agree to pay these injury claims voluntarily. Usually, there is an insurance policy that covers the business, and that means there is an insurance adjuster as well as an insurance defense lawyer ready to throw up defenses to paying for the victim’s damages. Maybe, they’ll argue that it’s really the injured person’s fault because they were wearing high heels (read our post about that argument here). Maybe, they’ll argue that the business owner made a reasonable effort to keep foreign objects off the floor and shouldn’t be held liable for what happened.

 

Foodtown, Auckland Central grocery aisles

 

Dangerous Conditions and Slip and Fall Accidents

The law in Florida, and the process to file a claim, is fairly straight forward; when a customer, client, or patron of a business (an “invitee”) slips and falls and is hurt while at the business establishment, and the business owner is negligent, the invitee has the right to pursue a damages claim against the business owner by making a demand, in writing, for compensation.  That written demand will include evidence (pictures, video or witness statements) that the dangerous condition was present at the time of the accident and that the slip and fall was a result of the dangerous condition.

What Happens When There Are Loose Objects On The Floor?

Obviously, loose objects on a floor can create a dangerous condition.  Some basic examples of loose objects creating a dangerous condition include water, food, electrical cords, or missing or damaged floor mats located in a store aisle or at the entrance of a business location.

Here, the accident victim will need to prove that the water was on the floor, or a mat was missing, and then also provide evidence that the business failed to exercise reasonable care with things like:

  • Maintenance of the premises to keep the loose object off the floors;
  • Inspection of the floors for stuff that provides a hazard for customers wasn’t done;
  • Repair of any floor hazards to get loose objects off the floor didn’t happen;
  • Warning that there is a danger as needed was not provided to customers; or
  • Mode of operation in dealing with loose objects on their floors (like having a standard practice of checking floors for problems) wasn’t in place — employees were trained and told to check for loose stuff on the floors that might cause a customer to fall.

Florida Statute On Liability For Slip and Falls Due To Loose Objects of Floor

The Florida Legislature passed a law dealing with these situations. Under Florida Statute 768.0755:

(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.

[For more on this premises liability statute, read some of our earlier premises liability posts .]

Slip and Fall on Water and Paper Towels on Publix Supermarket Floor

In the case of Castaneda v. General Bldg. Services, 746 So. 2D 491 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1999),  Juan Maria Castaneda was doing some grocery shopping at his local Publix supermarket when he slipped on the floor and was hurt. Mr. Casteneda fell because he slipped on some water and paper towels on the floor that had not been cleaned up by Publix’s cleaning company, General Building Services Corporation.

Read: Publix Slip And Fall Cases And Settlements

During the case, Publix’s cleaning company argued that the items did not create a dangerous condition and that Mr. Casteneda had failed to prove his case against them.

The trial judge agreed and granted the cleaning company’s motion for summary judgment. However, Mr. Casteneda didn’t give up. He took his case to the reviewing court, which reversed the summary judgment and sent the case back for trial or settlement between the parties.

The appeals court explained that it was necessary for the cleaning company to “completely dispel” Mr. Casteneda’s argument that the company had created a dangerous condition on that store floor by leaving the paper towels and water there in his path.

Therefore, it was up to a Florida jury to decide if those items created a dangerous condition, not the Judge in this case.  Since there was a material fact in dispute, (did the objects create a dangerous condition?), the trier of fact (the jury) should have made the decision.

What Should You Do If You Had A Slip and Fall Accident Because of A Loose Object On The Floor?

If you are injured at a Florida business where you slipped and fell because of a loose object on the floor, then you likely have a claim against that business — and its insurance company — for your injuries. (see our Slip and Fall Checklist to learn what type of information is needed to pursue one of these claims).

What Should You Do Now?

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, including what to include in a demand letter.

Related:

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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