If you slip and fall on someone's floor and injure yourself, you might wonder if you have a potential claim or lawsuit against the property owner. This article will discuss the different theories of liability against a property owner for slippery floor injuries, by answering some of the most critical questions in a slip and fall case.
In order to win a slip and fall case, you must be able to prove that the property owner was negligent (i.e., that the property owner did something wrong). Simply because you slipped and fell does not mean that the property owner was negligent. Further, simply because the floor was slippery does not mean that the property owner was negligent. The floor had to have been unreasonably slippery. Then, in order to prove that the property owner was negligent, you must prove that the property owner knew or should reasonably have known that the floor was unreasonably slippery. The word "reasonable" gets used a lot in personal injury cases.
In order to have a "reasonable" chance at winning a slippery floor case, you need to have a good idea of why the floor was slippery before you leave the premises after your accident.
If you don’t know what you slipped on or why the floor was slippery, you are going to have a difficult time proceeding with your case. Here are some substances that can make a floor slippery:
Remember that, in order to succeed in a slippery floor case, you must prove that the property owner knew or should reasonably have known that the floor was unreasonably slippery. The longer that the slippery condition had been present, the more likely it is that you can prove that the property knew or should have known that the floor was unreasonably slippery.
For example, if a shopper in a supermarket drops a banana peel on the floor, and you slip on it twenty seconds later, the supermarket will not be liable to you. Twenty seconds is not long enough for the supermarket to have learned about the slippery condition. But if the banana peel had been there for half an hour, you might have a claim against the supermarket.
Sometimes slippery conditions are unavoidable. For example, the owner of a commercial building might have the floors waxed periodically. That is reasonable building maintenance for a commercial building. But floor wax is slippery. So, a reasonable property owner would require that the floor waxers put up a sign warning of a slippery floor.
Putting up a warning does not automatically absolve the property owner of liability, but it is good evidence against the property owner being negligent. Conversely, failure to warn of a slippery condition on the floor is good evidence of negligence.
This is the flip side of whether the property owner warned of the slippery conditions. If you knew that the floor was slippery, and walked across the floor anyway, a jury might rule against you on the grounds that you disregarded the warning.
If a warning was present, that is evidence that the property owner was not negligent. Since it is always your burden of proving the defendant property owner negligent, you will need to find additional evidence that suggests that the property owner was negligent -- and that you were not.
Let’s continue with the floor waxing example. Let’s say that it was your office building that was being waxed, that the waxing was being done at noon, i.e., lunchtime, and that it was raining that day. Even with a warning, a freshly waxed floor is still slippery, and even more so if people are walking on the floor with wet shoes.
You could argue that the building owner was negligent for having the floors waxed at lunchtime, when there will be a lot of people walking down the hallways, and additionally negligent for having the floors waxed when it was raining, which will make the floors wet and even more slippery. In such a case, the jury might agree that simply putting up a warning wasn’t good enough; the property owner should have picked a better time to have the floors waxed.