Falls caused by slips on wet, slick or damp surfaces can result in serious injuries to patrons of Southwest Florida businesses.
According to the National Safety Council, approximately 25,000 people are injured daily due to slip-and-fall accidents. That’s a staggering number! In fact, the National Floor Safety Institute indicates it’s the No. 1 cause of employee and guest injuries at supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and public buildings. They result in approximately 9 million annual emergency room visits, and adults over the age of 55 are four times at risk.
At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, our premises liability attorneys recognize the vast majority of these falls are preventable. Even when the underlying cause of the wet conditions is outside the control of property owners, there is often a responsibility to address the potentially dangerous situation.
In Florida, the summer months are prone to daily downpours, which can cause water to be tracked into buildings. There are also certain businesses, such as food service, where spills are common.Common Slip-and-Fall Injuries
Someone who slips and falls on a wet or slippery floor could suffer anything from a few minor scrapes and bruises to serious, life-altering trauma. Among the injuries commonly reported among slip-and-fall victims:
- Head injuries. If a person’s head strikes the ground in a slip-and-fall, the consequences could be severe, possibly even resulting in death. Even someone who survives might require extensive rehabilitation, and still struggle with lingering mobility issues, cognition problems and poor memory.
- Neck, back and spinal injuries. The impact of a slip-and-fall or even just the act of trying to catch oneself can result in extremely painful conditions ranging from a slipped disc to a broken back. These might result in chronic pain, the need for surgical intervention or possibly an inability to return to work.
- Broken pelvis or broken hips. This is a particular danger for Florida’s senior citizens, who may as a result require hip replacement surgery or a prolonged nursing home stay.
Still, to prevail in a Florida slip-and-fall lawsuit, it’s not enough to show you were injured on-site due to falling on a foreign substance. It used to be that simple. However, in 2010, Florida Statute 768.0755 supplanted Florida Statute 768.0710, making the plaintiff hurdle more difficult.
As related to business invitees (patrons who are on-site for the commercial benefit of the owner), this new statute imposed a greater burden of proof on plaintiffs injured in slip-and-fall cases.
Under the old law, plaintiffs had to show the business/property owner in possession or control acted negligently by failing to exercise reasonable care. It was not necessary to prove the business owner had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition. Injured parties only needed to show an out-of-place substance caused the fall to occur.
Under the new law, plaintiffs must prove the business/property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition and failed to remedy it.
While actual knowledge can be difficult to establish, plaintiffs can often prevail under the constructive knowledge provision, based on circumstantial evidence. In order to meet this threshold, plaintiffs must show:
- A dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the property owner knew or should have known of the condition; or
- The condition occurred with regularity, and was therefore foreseeable.
An example of this would be a patron of a grocery store slipping and falling at an entrance with no mats during a rainy season afternoon downpour. In that case, store owners would have a duty to anticipate that wet conditions will likely be present and act accordingly. Appropriate actions might include placing anti-slip mats at the ingress/egress points, offering plastic coverings for wet umbrellas and placing “Caution: Wet Floor” signs near the entrance.
Another example might be a bar that allows patrons to carry drinks on the dance floor. In that instance, a court could determine that bar management should have known such action would foreseeably result in precariously slippery conditions that might cause someone to fall and suffer injury.
In the 2014 case of Feris v. Club Country of Fort Walton Beach Inc., Florida’s First District Court of Appeals reversed a summary judgment in favor of the defendant on this reasoning. The lawsuit stemmed from injuries sustained by a patron who slipped on a wet substance on the dance floor. While none of the deposition testimony indicated exactly how the substance came to be on the floor, or even exactly what the substance was, several patrons attested to the fact that drinks were routinely taken onto the dance floor and spills were common. Based on this circumstantial evidence, the court ruled a reasonable jury could find the club breached a duty of care by failing to address a dangerous condition where constructive knowledge existed.
Although the plaintiff burden for Florida slip-and-fall lawsuits has been made more stringent under state law, these cases can still be won with the right strategy, formulated by an experienced premises liability lawyer.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a slip-and-fall accident in Southwest Florida, contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation