“Brightly-Lit” Store Not Considered A Negligent Mode Of Operation

Personal Injury

In the case of Target Corporation v. Kaufer, 4D16-3413 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018) a jury verdict for the plaintiff was reversed on appeal where, as a matter of law, Target could not be held legally responsible for the actions of another customer dripping soap on a waxed and “brightly-lit” floor.  The Fourth DCA held that there was no liability under such facts under a “negligent mode of operation” theory.

Facts Of The Case

Target appealed after a jury awarded Kaufer and his wife with a $280,000 verdict following a slip and fall injury in their store.  Target argued that the trial judge should have entered a directed verdict in their favor on liability.

Kaufer slipped and fell on laundry detergent that had been dropped on the floor by an unknown customer walking in front of Kaufer and carrying a “leaking” bottle of laundry soap.  Kaufer argued that Target was negligent in having a “wet-look finish” on its floors and bright overhead lighting which reflected off the floor and thereby created a dangerous condition where spills of clear liquids would be undetectable.

Florida’s Slip And Fall Law

Slip and fall injuries happen with such frequency that Florida has enacted section 768.0710, Fla. Stat.  Section 768.0710 has since the time of this injury been replaced by section 768.0755.  This statute makes it harder for people who slip and fall to sue.

In essence, the law (in effect at that time) required that the plaintiff to prove that either:

1) the business acted negligently in failing to exercise reasonable care; or

2) the business engaged in a negligent mode of operation in order to be held responsible for a slip and fall due to a “transitory foreign substance” (which is Florida’s way of saying “water on the floor”)

Further, the phrase “negligent mode of operation” refers to the way that the business operates.  The example given in the case was the “presence of a grape” on the floor of a nursing home where the residents were regularly allowed to take food out of the dining area to their rooms (a nursing home patient slipped and fell on one of these grapes).

In that case, it was found to be “foreseeable” that there was a risk of food spilling onto the floor because of the way that the nursing home operated.  In other words, the nursing home could have restricted food to its designated dining areas rather than allow residents to take food anywhere in the building where there might be a risk of spilling.

The result with the case against Target Corporation was that the judges felt that there was nothing negligent about having a brightly lit store with a well waxed floor (I think this is what we all want in a grocery/big box store as opposed to a dimly lit store with dull floors).  Likewise, those circumstances do not constitute negligence in the eyes of the court and is likely the reason why the case resulted in nothing for the plaintiff despite the jury’s award.

It Is Not Enough To Win The Battle

When you bring a personal injury case in Florida, you need to win the war.  This is why you need an attorney to help you with your claim and to make the best decisions that you possibly can with your personal injury case.  At our Lakeland personal injury firm, we help you do just that.  To receive a free review of your case, contact us today.

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May 10, 2018