Actual and Constructive Notice in Slip and Fall Cases
Slip and fall lawsuits arise when dangerous conditions that exist on one person’s property cause injury to another. Slip and fall personal injury lawsuits generally fall within the class of civil tort claims known as negligence causes of action, and, within that class of cases, a subclass known as premises liability. In a premises liability case based on negligence, the plaintiff generally must prove four basic elements:
- a duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant
- a breach of the duty
- injury and damages
To establish the first element – duty – it must be established that the property owner or responsible party had a duty to the injured party. Whether such a duty exists will depend, in turn, on a number of different factors. In the case of an injury that occurs in a business establishment, one such factor is specifically imposed by a Florida statute: in order to prevail in a resulting slip and fall premises liability negligence case, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition on the premises that allegedly caused the accident to occur.
The Applicable Statute: Premises Liability for Transitory Foreign Substances in A Business Establishment
Fla. Stat. 768.0755 is the statute that pertains to the business establishment’s notice of the dangerous condition. Under this law, if a person slips and falls on a “transitory foreign substance” in a business establishment, the injured person must essentially show that the business establishment either knew (had actual knowledge) or should have known (had constructive knowledge) of the dangerous condition, and should have taken action to fix the danger. For purposes of this law, the plaintiff may show the business establishment had constructive knowledge by providing evidence to show that:
- the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that the business establishment should have known about it by exercising ordinary care, or
- the condition occurred regularly and was therefore foreseeable.
Illustration: Norman v. DCI Biologicals Dunedin LLC
A recent decision by the Florida District Court of Appeal, Second District, illustrates the way that Fla. Stat. 768.0755 applies in a premises liability case. The plaintiff in Norman v. DCI Biologicals Dunedin LLC filed a lawsuit against the defendant, a plasma donation center, after he slipped on dirty water on the floor in the men’s bathroom and was injured. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The appellate court found that, contrary to the trial court’s decision, there was evidence to support the inference that the defendant should have known about the liquid substance on the bathroom floor.
Slippery floors and other dangerous property conditions can result in slip and fall or trip and fall accidents. If you have questions about liability or are injured in a slip and fall case on someone else’s property, contact an experienced Fort Pierce personal injury lawyer at Sholtes Law, PLLC.