Knowing What Caused Your Slip And Fall

Personal Injury

It is very important to know what caused you to slip and fall.  In the case of Lago v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, Case Number 3D16-1899 (December 13, 2017), summary judgment was given to Costco because the claimant could not offer evidence as to what caused her to slip and fall.

Facts Of The Case

Ms. Lago slipped and feel on some sort of liquid substance as she was walking into a Costco store in Miami.  The fall resulted in a knee fracture.

The duty alleged in the lawsuit was that Costco had a duty to ensure that there was nothing on its floor that could cause invitees to hurt themselves.  Costco’s attorneys moved for summary judgment claiming that there was no genuine issue of material fact about Costco’s actual or constructive knowledge of the liquid substance.  The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Costco and it was upheld on appeal.

What Are The Legal Duties Owed By A Florida Business Owner To Invitees?

It is well established that the duties owed by a business owner in Florida are:

  1. to take ordinary and reasonable care to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition; and
  2. to warn of perils that were known (or should have been known) to the owner which the invitee could not discover.

In addition, section 768.0755, Fla. Stat. passed in 2010 shifts the burden of proof in constructive knowledge negligence cases (most cases are constructive knowledge cases) to the plaintiff to show 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.

In other words, there must be more evidence than simply that the floor was wet and the plaintiff fell–that would be a strict liability standard.  This is why it has been said in legal opinions that “the mere presence of water on the floor was not enough to establish constructive notice.”

The Lesson To Be Learned

The takeaway from this case is that it is yet another example of a plaintiff who failed to identify what caused the person to fall and offers no explanation of what the business did wrong to cause that person to fall.

I have successfully resolved many slip and fall cases over the years.  I have seen cases where the following has occurred:

  • failing to put out a floor mat on rainy days
  • failure to clean up water (or some other liquid) that has dripped onto the floor
  • failure to place a wet floor sign until the water can be cleaned up
  • roof leaks (that occur every time it rains)
  • mopping without using a wet floor sign

These are all transitory foreign substance cases (aka water on the floor).  To win these cases, you have to be able to say after the fact that it was water that you fell on.  In addition, you also need to have some idea where the water came from.  Without that, chances are that you will lose your case.

Likewise, if you slipped and fell near the ice machine, you should try to rack your brain to remember whether you saw water dripping from the machine or whether there was an empty bag of ice to where the water could have come from.

The store videos will not always be helpful.

Also, if you can remember to do so, you should take pictures (I know that the injured person is hurting rather than being concerned about collecting evidence).  Doing this can allow you to discuss with your attorney where the water may have come from and why it was unreasonable to expect that you would see it.

These things may change everything in a courtroom because the store will inevitably blame you for your own fall and will have an employee clean up the scene.

Water On The Floor Cases Are Tough But Not Impossible

While these cases are frequently difficult cases under Florida law, a person who has been significantly injured in a slip and fall should not be deterred.  The store will try to embarrass you or blame you, however, you should remember that you have taken thousands of steps in your life without falling and you should be confident that you would not have fallen but for something that the store did wrong (however, you must be able to say what the store did wrong).

Get Help For Your Slip And Fall Case

After you fall at a store, you may need to consult with an attorney to determine whether your fall is legally actionable.  If you would like help from an attorney in Lakeland, Florida regarding your slip and fall case, contact us today for a free case review.


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February 26, 2018