Actual Notice of a Dangerous Condition in a Slip and Fall Accident in Florida

Florida property owners owe a duty of care to their business invitees. A property owner found to have breached that duty could owe damages to injured parties involved in a Jacksonville premises liability suit. Among other things, they owe a duty to warn customers about dangerous conditions of which they know or should know. In a premises liability case in Florida, the plaintiff appealed from a summary judgment order in favor of a store where he’d fallen.

The plaintiff claimed that the store’s negligence had resulted in laundry detergent on the floor that caused him to slip and fall. The case arose when a customer spilled laundry detergent near the store’s checkout counter. The store manager and another worker were behind the counter. The manager left the counter to get cleaning supplies when he saw the spilled detergent. The other worker kept ringing up customers.

Around 41 seconds after the other customer spilled the detergent, the plaintiff came into the store. He stepped on the detergent as he went by the counter and fell ten seconds after entering the store. Thirty seconds after that, the store manager came back with supplies to clean up the detergent.

The plaintiff sued on the grounds that the store had departed from its duty of care by failing to keep the property reasonably safe for visitors and failing to provide warnings of an unreasonably dangerous condition. The store filed a motion for summary judgment. The store argued that the one minute between the spill and fall wasn’t enough time for it to fix the spill as a matter of law. It argued the store manager had been reasonable to go get cleaning supplies to fix the situation. The motion did not, however, talk about the store’s duty to provide a warning.

The plaintiff submitted deposition testimony of the store’s employees. The check-out person testified the store manager hadn’t been told of the spill by the customer. She said that there were sandwich boards that could be placed to provide warnings to customers. The store manager acknowledged that if he’d told her about the spill, the check-out person could have told the customer about the detergent as he came into the store if he’d let her know about the spill and this would have been the safer course of action. He admitted it was a slip and fall that could have been prevented.

In its summary judgment motion, the store argued there hadn’t been enough time to fix the problem. The plaintiff argued that the store hadn’t adequately addressed its duty to warn about a known and dangerous condition of which they’d actually known. The court held in favor of the store.

The appellate court explained that a defendant moving for summary judgment needs to show there wasn’t any negligence or that the sole proximate cause of the injury was the plaintiff’s negligence. A business owner should use reasonable care to keep the property reasonably safe and provide warnings of concealed dangers of which it knew or should have known, and that weren’t known by the business invitee, nor could have been discovered with the use of reasonable care.

The appellate court agreed that the store hadn’t departed from its duty to keep the property reasonably safe, because it didn’t have enough time to remedy the condition in the 51 seconds between the spill and the fall. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s granting of summary judgment. However, the deposition testimony showed that the store may have had enough opportunity to provide a warning about the dangerous condition. There was a disputed issue of material fact.

The appellate court reversed the grant of summary judgment and sent the case back for further proceedings in the lower court. It didn’t decide whether the detergent was an open and obvious condition.

If you sustained personal injuries in a slip and fall accident in Jacksonville, you should consult experienced attorney Kevin Cobbin. Our firm represents people throughout Duval County and the surrounding areas. Call him at (904) 357-8448 or complete our online form.

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