In a Florida slip-and-fall case, there are two main questions to consider. One question is whether or not the store or property owner failed to warn of the dangerous condition. The other is whether the store or property owner failed to use ordinary care to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. The Third District Court of Appeal looked at the second issue in a recently issued decision, Dominguez vs. Publix Super Markets, Inc. (No. 3D14-2212). This case stands out thanks to the store’s surveillance video, which allowed the court to review the spill, the store’s action, and the accident itself while considering the accompanying legal questions.
The video revealed that after several customers passed through the aisle, a bottle of detergent fell. A manager happened to be at the opposite end of the aisle and ran to the spill after he heard it. The court noted that nine seconds passed between the bottle falling and the manager standing over the spill. The injured customer slipped and fell four seconds after the manager arrived at the spill, while the manager had his back to her as she rounded the aisle. The court timed the whole incident between the spill of the detergent and the fall of the customer at 13 seconds.
The court discussed the duties a property owner owes to customers it invites to the business. There is the duty to warn of concealed dangers that are known or should have been known to the owner, but are unknown to the customer and unable to be discovered through ordinary care. There is also the duty to use ordinary care to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. The court, after viewing the video, did not feel the store failed either obligation under the law.
Previous cases with similar facts heavily considered the amount of time that passed between the substance falling on the floor and the accident, and which actions, if any, were taken in the meantime by the store. The court cited Gaidymowicz v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 371 So. 2d 212 (Fla. 3d DCA 1979), in which it had previously ruled in favor of the store. In this case, the court felt that a minute of time between the spill and the accident did not provide the store enough opportunity to correct the dangerous condition. Applying this to the present case, the Third District Court of Appeals definitely felt that 13 seconds was not enough for the store to apply its safety policies for this spill. Because of this, the court reversed the ruling in favor of the injured customer and directed the lower court to enter a judgment for the grocery store.
The Florida premises liability attorneys at Donaldson and Weston understand the hurdles that must be faced in a personal injury action. Our experienced attorneys can help you try to overcome the barriers placed by insurance companies and defendants to minimize or exclude you from the damages you deserve. For a free, confidential consultation, call our office at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.
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Florida’s First District Court of Appeal Allows Child’s Wrongful Death Suit to Continue, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, January 18, 2016