Last Update: 12/29/15
For better of for worse, there are 26 Wal-Marts located throughout South Florida (according to CityData, there are 12 Wal-Mart stores serving Broward County, with another 6 in Miami-Dade County and 8 in PalmBeach County). And most of us shop there for all sorts of things, from food and groceries to filling a prescription or stocking up on gardening supplies.
Which means, a lot of slip and fall claims are filed each year in South Florida against Wal-Mart, a company well versed in Florida’s premises liability law. So well versed, that it is usually difficult to get the company to pay a fair settlement to an injury victim.
Does A Victim Have To Prove Wal-Mart Had Knowledge Of A Dangerous Condition?
In Florida, we have a law that makes it somewhat difficult for someone who was hurt in a slip and fall at a store to get their damages claim paid by the business owner. This is because the injury victim has the burden of providing evidence that a store like Walmart had knowledge of a dangerous condition before it is required to compensate a slip and fall victim.
(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.
In plain language, the statute requires someone who is hurt in a slip and fall at Wal-Mart to show that the management and staff either knew (actual knowledge) of the hazard or danger or that they should have known (constructive knowledge) about the hazard and did nothing to correct the dangerous condition. The law also defines how an accident victim can prove Wal-Mart had “constructive knowledge” — by providing evidence that:
(1) it was something that happened “with regularity” or that
(2) it was something that “existed for such a length of time” that an ordinary and prudent store management and staff would have known about it.
What Evidence Do You Need To Prove Wal-Mart Was At Fault In A Slip And Fall Accident?
So, how does an injury victim meet this burden of proof? This is where an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer who handles premises liability cases, including slip and falls, can be helpful. An injury attorney can request, through formal legal procedures, documents and conduct depositions to gather admissible evidence to prove Wal-Mart was at fault for a slip and fall.
Evidence can include:
- Witness Statements From Other Customers
- Pictures And Videos Captured By The Victim Or Other Customers
- Incident Reports
- Store Maintenance Records
- Surveillance Video From The Store
- Emergency Medical Technician / Paramedic Witness Statements
- EMS Records
- Doctor’s Report.
How One Accident Victim Proved Her Fall Accident Claim Against Wal-Mart
In the Florida case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Reggie, the court found that the victim had provided sufficient evidence to hold Wal-Mart responsible for her slip and fall claim after she provided Wal-Mart maintenance records along with witness statements including the testimony of the assistant manager of the McDonald’s Restaurant located inside the store.
In her case, Mrs. Reggie fell down right outside the McDonald’s entrance, inside the Wal-Mart, and right next to two big garbage cans where lots of stuff from exiting McDonald’s customers got thrown away. The McDonald’s manager testified that these trash cans were “overflowing” with things like soft drink cups oozing soda and melting ice; this happened about twice a week. She also testified that once a month, she saw that these same trash cans would leak liquid out onto the Wal-Mart floor. When she notified Wal-Mart personnel about the trash cans, it would take between 30 and 90 minutes for things to be corrected. Wal-Mart told her that the store would take care of things when she offered to put “wet floor” signs near the McDonald’s entrance.
At the time of Mrs. Reggie’s injury, the McDonald’s manager testified that she had notified Wal-Mart of overflowing trash cans about an hour before the accident. She tried to fix the problem, but the trash cans were so stuffed that she couldn’t get the lids to close. There was no evidence that Wal-Mart had responded in any way to her warning before Mrs. Reggie fell down in the wet liquid that was oozing out of one of these trash cans.
Mrs. Reggie went to trial with Wal-Mart and the jury found in her favor. Wal-Mart appealed the case and lost, the court finding that Mrs. Reggie had proven both actual and constructive knowledge on the part of Wal-Mart:
1. Wal-Mart had constructive notice of the dangerous condition in two ways, (1) the length of time between the condition as noticed by Ms. Blanchard and the time appellee fell and (2) by evidence that the condition occurred in that area with sufficient regularity as to be foreseeable.
2. Wal-Mart had actual notice as well because of the McDonald’s manager testimony that she notified the store of the overflowing garbage containers an hour before appellee fell.
What Should You Do If You Have A Slip And Fall Claim Against Walmart?
From our experience, it’s not that easy to get a slip and fall claim paid by Wal-Mart; which is why we are confident that an experienced slip and fall lawyer, especially one who is a trial expert, can be helpful. Most experienced personal injury lawyers should be able to add value to a client’s injury claim by using their experience of negotiating with the company to obtain a fair settlement (an experienced injury lawyer will know how Walmart reacts to these claims and have a strategy to deal with the company).
What Should You Do Now?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed by a slip and fall at Wal-mart or other big-box store, 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 evaluate your case and answer your questions, including what to include in a demand letter.
Also See: 5 things you get from Alan Sackrin
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.