At Robert Sparks Attorneys, we represent many clients who were injured when they slipped (or tripped) and fell on the premises of a supermarket; restaurant, stadium/arena, parking lot, or other public or private property. Over the years, the law has shifted from placing the burden on the property owner to show that the incident was not their fault, to placing the burden on the injured party to prove how the incident occurred and that the property owner was negligent.
Section 768.0755, Florida Statutes, now specifically states:
- If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it. Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that:
- The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition; or
- The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
Proving that a business owner had actual knowledge of a substance is often difficult, and many cases will be evaluated based on a theory of constructive knowledge.
A case involving constructive knowledge can be built from photos, videos, and witness testimony (either the injured party, store employees, or other witnesses) regarding the dangerous condition, its characteristics, and whether it existed for a long enough time that the property owner should have discovered it before someone got hurt. By way of example, if someone is injured when slipping on a puddle of liquid at a grocery store, testimony that the puddle was dirty from carts and foot traffic walking through it shows that the puddle was there for some time and the store should have noticed and cleaned it up. Property owners also have a duty to inspect their premises, and lack of records on their part regarding inspections/maintenance helps prove constructive knowledge.
There may also be other evidence and testimony regarding the foreseeability of injury of a dangerous condition; examples include a leaking refrigerator or an entrance to a property that is susceptible to flooding when it rains. In those instances, the owner should have been proactive to repair the dangerous condition, and may be liable if someone is injured.
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall or other premises liability matter, you should take pictures of the dangerous condition, write down everything you remember about the incident and the dangerous condition, and get the names of as many witnesses and store employees as you can who either saw what happened or saw the dangerous condition. Regardless of the situation or what evidence you may or may not have, Robert Sparks Attorneys can evaluate your case for free and can most likely move forward to help collect evidence and ensure that the at-fault property owner is held responsible.