A visitor to a department store recently lost her attempt to hold the store responsible for injuries she suffered in a slip-and-fall accident. The Louisiana Court of Appeal ruled that the store could not be held liable for the woman’s fall because she lacked “positive evidence” that the store had a dangerous condition that caused the guest to fall, and that the store allowed the dangerous condition to exist for an unreasonably long period of time without correcting it. The ruling points out the sometimes uncertain nature of pursuing a slip-and-fall case against a merchant that is based upon a theory that no possible explanation for the accident could exist other than the merchant’s negligence.
The incident leading to this lawsuit took place on a rainy June morning in 2013. Libby Ammon traveled to the Dillard’s store in Baton Rouge’s Mall of Louisiana to attend a 10:00 AM appointment with a Lancome make-up artist. Halfway between the store’s entry doors and the base of its escalators, Ammon slipped and fell. Ammon opined that, immediately before falling, she felt as though she had stepped “on ice or something.” Ammon fell on her hand and also hit her head and left side.
Ammon sued Dillard’s for her injuries. The woman asserted that the store either created the risk or knew about it, that the store knew or should have known about the unreasonable risk of harm the condition posed, and that the store did nothing to correct it. The store, on the other hand, argued that the woman had no proof that a dangerous condition existed for an unreasonably long period of time, and that the court should award summary judgment in its favor.
The court sided with Dillard’s. The woman appealed, but her appeal was not successful. The Louisiana Merchant Liability Statute was the law upon which this case rested. That statute requires the injured person to prove that an unsafe condition existed, that the risk of harm was both unreasonable and foreseeable, that the store knew about it or should have known about it, and the store did not use reasonable care in addressing the problem. In this context, the law requires the injured person to show that the risky condition existed for such a long period of time that the only way the store could have failed to discover it was if it was not exercising due care.
This criterion proved to be the unraveling of Ammon’s case. She testified at her deposition that she never saw any substance on the floor where she fell. Neither Ammon nor the Dillard’s employees who helped her after she fell could identify anything on the floor in the vicinity of the accident. The appeals court was not persuaded by her argument that “there is no other explanation” for her slip and fall than a substance on the floor. The law requires “positive evidence,” meaning that she needed some affirmative piece of evidence or testimony to bolster her claim of a dangerous substance on the floor. Her assertions arguing that “there is no other possible explanation” did not amount to the sort of positive evidence the law required.
Without this positive evidence, Ammon could not possibly prove that the store had either actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition’s existence, and her liability case could not proceed.
Slip-and-fall cases, like any other personal injury case, can range from very straightforward to extremely complex. As you decide how to proceed regarding the injuries you suffered on a store’s property, you need capable Louisiana counsel on your side to advise and represent you. The Louisiana premises liability attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm can offer you the careful analysis and determined advocacy you need on your side.
For your free and confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.
More Blog Posts:
Louisiana Court of Appeal Awards Family $325K After Toddler Breaks Arm on Daycare’s Age-Inappropriate Daycare Equipment, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, July 15, 2015
‘Open and Obvious’ Hazards and Premises Liability Cases in Louisiana, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, June 29, 2015