Reffaie v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 96 So. 3d 1073, 1074 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2012)
This tort action was brought on by the plaintiff in the lawsuit after they sustained injuries from a slip-and-fallincident at a store.
On the day of the slip and fall accident, the plaintiff was entering a Wal-Mart Supercenter when they encountered a substance described as slippery on the floor. Without warning, the plaintiff was caused to fall to the ground when her feet slipped out from under her when she came into contact with the substance. Ultimately, the plaintiff required surgery to fix injuries sustained to her shoulder and neck.
This case is unique in that the jury found in favor of the plaintiff, however, they reduced the amount of damages by the percentage of fault found to be attributed to the plaintiff. Though Wal-Mart was in fact found negligent for allowing the liquid to remain on the floor walked on by customers, the plaintiff was determined to have contributed to the fall itself. The jury assigned the plaintiff with eighty percent of the liability in causing her injuries. After calculating the total amount of damages to be just under one hundred thousand dollars, the jury reduced that amount by the eighty percent, and awarded the plaintiff with nineteen thousand dollars.
Until recently, Florida did not institute a strong burden of proof on the part of a plaintiff to establish conditions of a slip-and-fall accident at a place of business. However, changes in the law have made this burden of proof more stringent on the part of a plaintiff. Previously, the burden of proof that a plaintiff was faced with in a slip and fall case only required them to demonstrate that a slip and fall had actually taken place. The defendant was left to show that they took appropriate steps in making sure that the property was safe for their patrons.
The changes to the law make it necessary for a plaintiff in a slip and fall lawsuit to show that the business owed them a duty of care, and that duty was breached as a result of a negligent act. The way that a plaintiff can demonstrate this is by showing that the business knew, or should have known of the hazardous condition, and that the business needed to take steps towards fixing the problem.
There are two types of “notice” when it comes to a business being aware of a hazardous condition. The first type of notice, ‘actual notice’, is seemingly cut and dry; the business knew that the condition existed. A more difficult type of notice is in proving the second type, “constructive notice”. In essence, this type of notice simply means that given the circumstances, the business should have known of the condition, regardless of them actually knowing about it.
Though this new law requires a bit more investigation into slip and fall accidents, it does not eliminate recovery from them altogether. The goal that the Florida legislature had in mind was to reduce the amount of fraudulent cases being filed against businesses. At one point, Florida slip-and-fall lawsuits were nearly two times greater than the average across the country.
If you have been injured from a fall and believe it may have been caused by negligence of the store, contact our firm and tell us the details. We will go over your case with you at no cost during your free consultation. We are based in Fort Lauderdale, but fight for the rights of the injured throughout Florida.