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Store Owner Liability in Slip & Fall Accidents

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Personal Injury

While some injuries are purely accidental, in the sense that there is no person other than the victim to blame for injuries that occur, many accidents are caused by the negligence of another person, whether through their action or inaction. In determining whether a duty owed to another was subsequently breached, such that liability can be established in a negligence claim, understanding the concept of reasonableness is critical. What may be reasonable in one circumstance, is not always reasonable in another. Consequently, assessing store owner liability in slip & fall accidents requires a distinctive evaluation of the individual facts involved in the incident, and also legal standards set forth under Florida law.

Pursuant to Florida Statute § 768.0755, which pertains to premises liability for transitory 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.

In interpreting this statute, in terms of standards of reasonableness, it is important to understand the distinction between actual and constructive knowledge. Actual knowledge is as simple as it sounds, the owner of the business establishment was aware of a dangerous or unsafe condition, and therefore had a duty to remedy the condition in order to prevent injury to others. Constructive knowledge, on the other hand, is complex, in that it requires a thorough analysis of a store owner’s reasonableness in a given circumstance.

Determining the presence of actual or constructive knowledge in premise liability actions can be simplified by considering two key inquiries. First, did injury occur as a result of a known dangerous or unsafe condition that was neither open nor obvious? If yes, then the store owner is generally said to have actual knowledge. If no, then it is necessary to evaluate the second inquiry—was there an unknown danger that would have been discovered had the store owner acted in a reasonable manner? If yes, the store owner is generally said to have constructive knowledge.

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Properly supporting a negligence claim based upon constructive knowledge, can be assessed by returning to the concept of reasonableness. Consider whether the store owner acted in a reasonable manner under the circumstances. As patrons to a business establishment, we are entitled to an expectation that the business owner will take necessary precautions to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Depending on the circumstances, this may require inspection of the premises at regular intervals, remedying dangerous conditions that have occurred in the past, and when remedy is infeasible or not immediately feasible, warning customers of known dangers.

If you were a patron to a business establishment, and sustained injury in a slip & fall, or similar accident, properly documenting the incident, followed by a thorough investigation and comprehensive analysis from a legal professional can protect your right to compensation. The Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. have decades of practice experience, and want to help you and your family obtain the financial recovery that you deserve.