Whenever you slip and fall at any business location, there are some important facts that YOU must prove to win any Florida slip & fall case. Many consumers are very disappointed when they learn that Florida businesses are not automatically liable whenever they slip, fall and injure themselves on any business premises. To make matters worse, Florida’s slip and fall statute is very anti-consumer (unfortunately these laws were passed by law makers concerned more about big business than “the little guy.”) This means that the law places a heavy burden on the consumer to PROVE that the business, for one reason or another, essentially had “notice” of whatever dangerous condition caused the fall.
The Single MOST Important Thing The Plaintiff MUST Prove In Many Florida Slip & Fall Cases
The specific Florida slip and fall statute governing what you must prove to recover damages from a Florida slip and fall injury (on any business premises) says:
768.0755 Premises liability for transitory foreign substances in a business establishment.
(1) 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:
(a) 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
(b) The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
(2) This section does not affect any common-law duty of care owed by a person or entity in possession or control of a business premises.
What The Heck Does That Mean For Slip & Fall Plaintiffs?
The law quoted above is exactly what a plaintiff must prove, with evidence, to succeed in court in a Florida slip & fall case.The most important aspect of proving the liability portion of your case is proving that the business owner had some form of NOTICE of any “transitory foreign substance” that might have caused your fall. This means you have to prove that the business KNEW about whatever dangerous condition caused you to fall, which is never an easy task.
So How Would A Plaintiff Prove Notice In A Florida Slip & Fall Case?
As I just mentioned, you, as the plaintiff, must prove that the business owner had notice of whatever caused you to fall (during any slip and fall lawsuit). Oftentimes the plaintiff must help the slip and fall attorney determine whether any such evidence exists. You taking photographs might be essential to our investigation and proof. Your testimony might also be enough. But you need something showing that the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that the business should have known about it. For example, if you slipped and fell on a liquid substance in a grocery store, the liquid might have had grocery cart track marks going through it, dirt in the liquid, started to form a gel or harden, been caused by thawing frozen foods, or come from a leaky cooler or freezer. These types of facts can help you prove that the owner had notice of the condition (because they suggest that the liquid had been there a longer time). Another way to prove notice might be that store employees dropped something on the floor that broke (because the store is considered to know what their employees do). On the other hand, if you just slipped and fell on an unknown clear liquid, from an unknown source, which had been on the floor for an unknown period of time, you almost certainly will not be able to recover one single penny from the business owner. You simply cannot establish your undeniable and unbending legal requirement to prove that the substance had been on the floor for at least 20-30 minutes. There simply must be something about the liquid that suggests that liquid had been there for some period of time to recover anything. Another example would be slipping on the classic banana peel. How would you prove that a banana peel had been on the floor for an extended period of time? Well, a dark banana peel, by itself, may or may not be enough, since a dark banana theoretically could have fallen on the floor. But a dark banana peel with grocery cart track marks, or visible dirt on top of the peel, would get you a lot further.
What If You Can’t Prove That The Store Had Notice?
Another way of proving liability in Florida slip and fall cases is by proving that the condition occurred regularly and, therefore was foreseeable (to the business). This second little subsection is sometimes ignored by plaintiffs attorneys, but might be very important to the success or failure of any given Florida slip and fall case. This might be something like oil spills that cover a parking lot (if you slipped and fell on an oil spill). Or tripping over trash in a parking lot that is often littered with trash. (In either of those cases, photos of surrounding oil spills and /or trash would be very helpful. You should ALWAYS QUICKLY take photographs, or return to the scene to take photographs, of whatever caused you to fall. QUICKLY!!) Some other ways of establishing liability in a slip and fall case include defective construction, code violations, and the like. Essentially if something is wrong with the property, such as a stair step that is far too narrow, or some other building code violation, then you also may be able to establish liability for a slip and fall case (even without proving notice).
Well, first of all, I don’t think YOU, as a consumer, should make that decision. As a plaintiffs’ Florida slip and fall attorney, I am trained to ask many questions designed to uncover potentially creative ways of arguing that the store had notice. Or that the condition occurred regularly. So really you should call me. If I cannot think of any argument to prove notice or regularity, then I might have to decline your case. The reason is that if we filed suit on your behalf, but could not prove notice, then your case would likely be dismissed before ever reaching a jury (with no recovery for you). We might also be able to argue that this statute should not apply because your slip and fall was not caused by a “transitory foreign substance” (such as something inherent in the construction of the premises).
One Of Many Catch 22s For Plaintiffs In Slip & Fall Cases
One catch 22 for plaintiffs in Florida slip and fall cases is that you must prove notice, BUT you can’t have seen the condition before the fall (otherwise you would have had an obligation to avoid the condition for your own safety). So essentially you must discover whatever evidence proves that the business or store had notice AFTER you fell. In the banana peel example above, you would need to have seen an old banana, with dirt or grocery tracks soiling the banana, AFTER you fell. Essentially, in that case, you would have fallen, then seen that the old & dirty banana peel laying on the floor caused your fall. That’s a heavy burden for plaintiffs to prove, but that’s exactly what they must do in every slip and fall case.
This Statute Does NOT Apply To ALL Slip & Fall Cases
You should understand that this statute only applies to falls on BUSINESS premises in the state of Florida, so the law is different if you slipped and fell at someone’s home, for example. The law also varies tremendously in other states.
When Did This Slip & Fall Statute Take Effect?
This is a relative new statute that became effective on July 1, 2010 and definitely applies to any and all slip and fall accidents that occurred on business premises AFTER that date. (If you had a slip and fall accident before July 1, 2010, there are arguments going both ways regarding whether this statute applies to prior accident (which would make the statute retroactive). In my opinion, the overwhelming weight of authority supports that this law is NOT retroactive, but you need an attorney who feels comfortable making that argument to have the best chance of succeeding.)
What Should You Do?
If you were injured as a result of any slip and fall accident, you need someone to talk through the facts with you, in great detail, to determine the likelihood that we could prove your case. I accept text messages or phone calls 24/7 and return messages quickly. I will help you get to the bottom of whether you have a good slip and fall case.