In a recent case from south-central Louisiana, a shopper who slipped and fell in a grocery store aisle near a “Wet Floor” sign was unable to pursue her case against the store. Although the shopper’s evidence included contradictory testimony about the basis for the sign’s placement, her case still fell short. The Louisiana Court of Appeal‘s decision reminds businesses and patrons that, to succeed in a Louisiana Merchant Liability Statute case, the injured person needs proof that the store caused the hazard and that the hazard had existed for “some period of time.”
The source of this case was the injuries Regina Williams suffered while shopping at a Super 1 Foods store in New Iberia. Williams and her daughter were walking down the frozen foods aisle when they spotted a “Wet Floor” sign. The women passed the sign, and, a few steps later, Williams slipped and fell on what she described as a puddle of water. Williams sued the store’s owner, Brookshire Grocery Co., for her injuries.
The grocery store asked the trial court to issue a summary judgment in its favor. Williams had not offered the proof necessary under the Merchant Liability Statute to allow a court to find the grocery store liable for the accident, it argued. The court agreed and dismissed the woman’s lawsuit.
The shopper appealed, but she lost again. Williams had basically centered her case around the wet floor sign and the inconsistency of certain store employees’ testimony about the sign. Two Super 1 workers testified that the store used the sign as a method to warn shoppers about a faulty metal plate covering a drain in the floor. Three other employees testified that they recalled nothing about a faulty plate, and two of them testified that they did not recall the wet floor sign. These inconsistencies, Williams argued, created an issue of disputed fact that should have allowed her to take her case to trial.
The appeals court decided that the shopper’s argument did not reflect how the law works. It was not enough for her simply to establish the existence of certain discrepancies. She needed to establish that a dispute existed about a fact that was material to the case. The shopper’s evidence potentially created a void in terms of explaining exactly why the wet floor sign was in the frozen foods aisle, but it did not demonstrate that the store had actual or constructive knowledge of a puddle of water in that aisle.
Further working against Williams was the law’s requirement of what’s called the “temporal element.” That means that a slip-and-fall victim seeking to hold a merchant liable must prove that “the condition existed for some period of time prior to the fall.” Williams had no evidence that would tend to show how long the water hazard had existed in the frozen foods aisle. Williams additionally lacked any evidence showing that a Super 1 employee caused the puddle. All of these things, which Williams’ case lacked, are necessary to hold a business liable under the Merchant Liability Statute.
Succeeding in a slip-and-fall case under the Merchant Liability Statute can be challenging. It is important to understand fully what the law requires you to prove in order to recover compensation for the injuries you suffered. For answers to your questions, reach out to the knowledgeable Louisiana premises liability attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. We have many years’ experience helping accident victims pursue recovery for the damages they’ve suffered.
For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.
More Blog Posts:
Mall of Louisiana Patron Unable to Hold Department Store Liable for Injuries in Slip-and-Fall Accident, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Oct. 15, 2015
Louisiana Shopper Loses Slip-and-Fall Case Because She Couldn’t Prove Store Knew About Hazard, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, March 16, 2015