Property owners in Florida have a duty ensure that their property is in reasonably safe condition for visitors. If you or someone close to you has been injured on someone else’s land, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the property owner. This area of law is known as premises liability law and it applies to homeowners, small business owners, commercial business owners, and others.
In Dominguez v. Publix Super Markets, Inc., the plaintiff sustained injuries when she slipped and fell on detergent that had spilled on the floor from an overturned bottle. The defendant’s video surveillance caught a visual of the incident. The footage showed a Publix employee running to the spill where he picked up the bottle, placed it upright, and started to clean up the mess. The employee’s back was to the plaintiff when she came around the corner and slipped in the spilled detergent. The total time between when the bottle fell and the woman’s fall amounted to thirteen seconds.
Under Florida law, a property owner also owes differing levels of care based on the status of their visitor. A customer in a store is classified as an “invitee” and is owed the highest duty of care by the storeowner. When it comes to invitees, storeowners have an obligation to warn of hidden dangers that the storeowner knows about or should have known about, but that the invitee could not discern through the use of reasonable care. The storeowner also owes invitees a duty to keep the property reasonably safe.
In the case at hand, the court determined that the condition of the spilled detergent was open and obvious. As such, Publix had no duty to warn the plaintiff about the dangers the spilled detergent presented. Thus, the crux of the case came down to whether or not Publix had maintained its premises in a reasonably safe condition.
When it comes to spilled liquid cases, the court will look at the length of time the condition existed before it was remedied to determine whether reasonable care was used. The court looked at previous cases in which one minute or less was found to be a reasonable amount of time to correct the situation. Since the condition in this case was corrected in 13 seconds, Publix was not deemed liable.
The court also noted that Publix’s internal operating procedure, which mandated that an employee immediately block the aisle in the event of a spill, was relevant and admissible. However, internal procedures do not, in themselves, determine whether the duty of care owed to plaintiff was met. In other words, the Publix employee could have exercised ordinary care even without following internal policies.
If you have been injured on another person’s property, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. At The Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our experienced premises liability attorneys are well-versed in this area of law and can put our knowledge to use in your case. Please note that we offer every prospective client a free, initial consultation. For more information, please do not hesitate to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.
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