Constructive Knowledge in Slip and Fall Cases

Many slip & fall cases are caused by some kind of foreign substance on the floor or ground, like a puddle of water or other liquid. One key component of a slip fall case involves the duty that a business establishment has to keep their store safe and whether the business knew, or should have known that a potential dangerous condition existed at the time of the incident. In 2001, the Florida Supreme Court decided the Owens v. Publix Supermarkets case. In the Owens case, the Court issued a somewhat controversial ruling regarding slip and fall cases. The Court ruled that once an injured party establishes that he or she fell as a result of a foreign substance, the burden then shifts to the business to produce evidence that it exercised reasonable care in keeping the store safe because it is assumed that the business knew or should have known of the unsafe condition; this is called constructive knowledge. This burden shifting was a big change in the law because it was always the injured party’s Job to prove that he or she fell as a result of the foreign substance and that the business had constructive knowledge of the unsafe condition and did not exercise reasonable care in discovering the problem and attempting to repair or clean-up the hazardous condition.

In 2010, however, the Florida legislature overruled the Supreme Court by passing Florida Statute 768.0755. This statute states that if a person slips and falls at a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous action and should have taken action to remedy it. The statute also provides that constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that the dangerous condition occurs regularly and was foreseeable by the business, or that the condition existed for such a length of time that the business should have discovered the condition and fixed it. What this means in many slip and fall cases is that businesses generally have a duty to inspect their premises every so often for dangerous conditions and take action to remedy them if discovered. This is especially true for food stores where items can fall off the shelf and create obstacles or messes and where refrigerators and coolers can leak water on to a floor and create puddles. Additionally, in bad weather, many businesses will have a duty to ensure that rain water and mud is not being tracked onto their floors causing an unsafe condition. If a business does not take proper care to ensure the safety of their customers, they may be liable for any injuries suffered as a result. If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall call the personal injury attorneys at Robert Sparks Attorneys regarding what rights you have to recover for your injuries.