Louisiana Shopper Loses Slip-and-Fall Case Because She Couldn’t Prove Store Knew About Hazard

Black Friday is a big day among retailers and many holiday shoppers. Unfortunately, Black Friday 2009 was a very painful day for one area shopper who slipped and fell in the vestibule of a department store in Kenner. Making matters worse, Louisiana’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal decided that the shopper was unable to recover damages from the store because her evidence at trial failed to show that the store had “constructive notice” of the fallen sign that caused her injury.

Sylvia Scott visited the Dillard’s store in Esplanade Mall shortly after it opened on Black Friday 2009. In the front entryway to the store, a plastic cling sign (like one might commonly see in a store front window announcing holiday hours) had fallen to the ground. Scott stepped on it, slipped, and fell on her back. Scott’s injuries eventually forced her to have surgery.

The shopper sued the store and lost. In fact, her case never even made it to trial, since the store sought and received summary judgment, with the trial court ruling that the shopper could not meet the burden of proof necessary to continue pursuing her claim. The shopper appealed, but the appeals court agreed with the lower court, deciding that Scott could not meet her burden of proof.

To some, this outcome might seem surprising. The sign was a Dillard’s sign and was on the ground in a Dillard’s store. A shopper. Scott, slipped on the fallen sign, which was supposed to be in the window, not on the ground, and fell as a result, causing her to suffer injuries. The reason the shopper lost is that there is more that goes into establishing a successful slip-and-fall case. In slip-and-fall cases against merchants, you have to prove, among other things, that the condition (in this case, the fallen sign) posed an unreasonable risk of harm and that the store should have reasonably foreseen this risk. You also have to show that the store, before you slipped and fell, either created the dangerous situation or had “constructive notice” of it. Furthermore, you have to establish that the store’s conduct amounted to a failure to use reasonable care to avoid the dangerous situation.

What defeated Scott’s case was that she couldn’t prove how long the sign was down. Without clear evidence regarding the length of time that the dangerous condition existed, the shopper had no way of establishing that the store either knew about the problem or would have known if it had used reasonable care. Scott did not claim to know how long the sign was on the floor, but the store’s manager testified it was still in the window when the store opened at 8:00 a.m., which was only 30 minutes before Scott’s fall. Without proof that the sign was on the floor for “some time,” the shopper could not prevail.

Many types of proof go into constructing a winning slip-and-fall case. For honest, reliable advice and strong advocacy in your injury case, talk to the Louisiana injury law attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our injury attorneys have decades of experience handling these cases and can help you maximize your chances of success.

For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More blog posts:

Family Entitled to Trial in Malpractice Claim Against Jefferson Parish Hospital for Mishandling ‘Fall Risk’ Patient, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, March 2, 2015

The Anatomy of a Trip and Fall Case, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Aug. 6, 2014

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