By: Chris Reynolds
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Court Dismisses Case for Woman Injured in Grocery Store Slip and Fall
In the case of Edwards v. Hy-Vee, the woman was injured after slipping on a piece of watermelon. An employee of the grocery store was handing out samples of watermelon close to where the fall occurred (6 feet away). Though Nebraska law is of course different from Florida, with respect to a slip and fall lawsuit, both Florida and Nebraska require that an injured person show that the store either knew or should have known of the danger that caused the fall.
As in most premises liability cases, the injured woman was unable to prove that the grocery store actually knew about the watermelon on the ground that caused her fall. So, she had to show that the grocery store should have known about the watermelon on the floor and that the watermelon on the floor was a danger to customers.
Often, constructive notice (i.e., the store should have known about the dangerous condition in the store) is shown by the length of time that the dangerous condition existed on the property controlled by the store owner. The theory is that when the owner of a business that allows the public to enter the property so that the owner can make a profit, that owner has a duty to protect the public from dangers it knows about or should know about. Regarding dangers it should know about, obviously the owner of the property is in the best position to discover dangers on its property as opposed to a solitary patron in the store.
It is common for one of the most important factors in showing that a store should have known about a danger on its property to be the length of time the danger existed on the property prior to the fall. The reasoning is that, even if the property owner did not actually know about the danger, the property owner should have known about the danger if the danger was on the property for too long. The question of then becomes, how long does the danger have to exist before we can say that the property owner should have known about the danger and done something to either make the area safe or warn customers of the danger? Generally, this is up to a jury to determine, though some courts have found that the danger did not exist long enough for the property owner to discover before the injury.
Common ways to show how long a danger has existed include the size of a puddle, the dust or dirt in a slippery substance on the floor, or smears or footprints in a liquid on the floor. Each of these things can tend to show that the danger on the floor existed for a sufficient period of time for the owner of the store to discover it.
Unfortunately for the woman who slipped on a piece of watermelon, she was unable to provide any evidence at all as to how long the piece of watermelon was on the floor. Accordingly, the court dismissed her case.
Florida slip and fall cases are generally very complicated and require extensive investigation. If you or someone you know has been injured on a business property, contact an experienced trial attorney for a free consultation about your options.