Breaking Down Florida Grocery Store Slip-And-Fall Claims
Slip-and-fall incidents are the leading cause of customer and employee injuries at Florida grocery stores. Wet spots on floors and other physical obstructions, such as a can of vegetables dropped on the floor, cause most of these incidents.
The number of slip-and-fall injuries has increased significantly since the 1980s. During that time, corner grocery stores have evolved into huge supercenters with much more floor space. But, the number of employees who police these areas has not increased commensurately. So, the 300 percent increase is not much of a surprise.
Damages in slip-and-fall cases usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Grocery Store Duty in Florida
Customers and employees are both invitees in Florida. These individuals responded to the employer’s express (“you’re hired”) or implied (an “open for business” sign). Furthermore, their presence creates an actual or potential economic benefit. Most social guests are invitees as well, since the owner benefits from the social interaction.
Since the invitation is so clear and the benefit is so high, the owner’s legal responsibility is high as well. Typically, if the victim was an invitee, the owner has a duty of reasonable care. In practical terms, the owner must frequently inspect the premises to ensure that there are no hazards on floors or other danger spots, such as burned-out parking lot lights.
Other victims are either licensees (invitation but no benefit) or trespassers (no invitation and no benefit). The guest of a hotel guest is a licensee, and an unaccompanied child who wanders into a store is probably a trespasser. In these cases, the legal duty is limited or nonexistent.
Establishing Cause in a Slip-and-Fall Claim
If the owner had a duty to keep the floors safe, the victim/plaintiff must establish a connection between the floor hazard and the aforementioned damages.
The burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of evidence in Florida law. So, the victim’s own testimony, even if the victim’s memory of the incident is a little shaky, is usually more than enough to establish cause.
If there is no direct evidence, the victim/plaintiff may use circumstantial evidence. This rule is called res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself). Essentially, if negligence usually causes the type of injury that the victim sustained and the owner had exclusive control over the immediate area, cause is established as a matter of law. For example, res ipsa loquitur would probably apply if a victim fell down the stairs and an investigation revealed a loose handrail.
Knowledge of Defect in Florida
Rather understandably, owners are only legally responsible for the hazards they know about. Once again, victim/plaintiffs may use direct or circumstantial evidence to establish knowledge.
Direct evidence “smoking guns” like restroom cleaning reports and unpaid repair invoices usually surface in discovery. During this process, the parties exchange all information about their claims and defenses.
If direct evidence is unavailable, victim/plaintiffs may use the time/notice rule to establish constructive knowledge (should have known). Assume the victim/plaintiff slipped on a banana which fell on the floor. If the peel was yellow, it probably just fell, so there is no constructive knowledge. But if the peel is black, it had probably been on the floor for quite some time, and a worker should have seen it and picked it up. Therefore, constructive knowledge attaches.
Reach Out to Aggressive Attorneys
Grocery stores have considerable responsibility in slip-and-fall cases. For a free consultation with an experienced slip and fall injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).