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This slip-and-fall lawsuit did not meet the criteria

Businesses have a legal obligation to provide reasonably safe conditions. But they are not automatically responsible for every accident or injury that occurs on their property.

A California court ruled against a woman who sued after she slipped and fell on ice cubes in a grocery store. There was a safety hazard, but after watching the security footage the judge determined the store was not to blame.

Other shoppers created the dangerous condition

To win a premises liability case, you usually must show (1) damages, (2) negligence and (3) notice. A California woman was injured when she slipped on melting ice in a supermarket aisle. She sued the Stater Bros. grocery chain for her injuries and losses. But a federal court granted summary judgment to the defendants, saying the store's management was not proven negligent.

A closed-circuit camera showed that two other patrons took a bag of ice from a cooler. It broke open, spilling ice on the floor. The two shoppers played foot hockey with the stray cubes and then walked away, leaving a mess. The victim came along four minutes later and fell on the slippery floor.

In deciding in favor of the grocery company, the judge refuted each of the plaintiff's arguments. It is not reasonable to expect that an employee monitors the security cameras at all times. It is not reasonable to expect the staff to notice and clean up every spill within four minutes. It is not reasonable to have only store employees handle bags of ice.

Sometimes the property owner is responsible for accidents

This case might have ended differently if there were clear signs of negligence on the part of the grocery. For example, suppose the videotape showed any of these scenarios:

  • A time lapse of 45 minutes before the ice was cleaned up
  • Numerous patrons slipping or falling
  • Employees walking back and forth past puddles and ice cubes
  • An employee spilling ice cubes and failing to clean them up
  • Two employees playing soccer with ice cubes

How do you know when premises liability applies?

You may think you have a premises liability claim when you don't have a strong case. Or it could be the other way around. You may assume you have no claim when in fact there is solid basis for a lawsuit.

A personal injury attorney can determine if you have grounds to sue. Most offer a free consultation. If they do take your case, you don't owe anything unless they recover compensation on your behalf. Different law firms may pass or accept the same case, based on the facts.

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