The Liability Of Retailers To Maintain Shop Floors
Earlier this year, a woman won a $1 million judgment against Wal-Mart after slipping on a wet spot on the floor of the Northside Jacksonville Wal-Mart Supercenter. This is an unusually high recovery for a Florida slip and fall case, as these types of cases are notoriously very difficult to prove, even when the plaintiff has suffered serious injuries.
Under Florida Law, if you slip and fall in a business establishment, including a retail store, you must prove that the business had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, and should have remedied that condition. Constructive knowledge may be proven by demonstrating that the dangerous condition existed for a long enough time that the business should have known about it, or that the condition was one that occurs regularly, and was therefore foreseeable.
Those in possession or control of the premises owe a duty of care to their customers. The duty of a business owner to maintain a shop floor includes:
- Inspecting the floors regularly. Maintain the general condition of the floor, conduct repairs as well as clean spills and remove fallen objects from the floor that could cause injury. In the case noted above, Wal-Mart did not investigate the spill, failed to interview the employee who was with the plaintiff when she fell, and allegedly destroyed a security tape showing that safety sweeps had been conducted in the store.
- Warning customers of substances on the floor. If time is needed to clean up a spill, placing a wet floor sign over or beside the spill is generally considered sufficient warning.
It is crucial that you promptly gather evidence (e.g., photographs and witness statements) and retain an experienced and aggressive lawyer.