If you suffer a slip and fall in public, like in a store, determining premises liability can take a different turn.
When you or a loved one are hurt in a slip and fall accident, you may wonder if the store or business owner is legally responsible for your injuries. Businesses have a legal obligation to keep their property as safe as reasonably possible.
A business invites people onto their property specifically to shop and conduct business, meaning their duty to take care of their premises is greater than your duty to take care of your home or other property for personal use.
Typically, a store is liable after a slip and fall accident in Florida when it can be proven that they didn’t take reasonable steps to ensure customer safety.
Is a Florida store legally responsible for the safety of its customers?
A store has a legal duty to safeguard the safety of those who use it. This means making sure that the property is clear of hazards such as slippery surfaces and debris. Store owners, managers and employees are legally obligated to quickly clean up spills and other hazards in the aisles as soon as it comes to their attention. If they fail to do so, then negligence has occurred and the injured party may sue the store for damages.
For instance, if a spill on aisle 8 comes to the attention of a store employee, they must take reasonable steps to clean it up as soon as possible because it poses a potential slip hazard to customers and other employees. A hazard sign should also remain at the site to warn customers of a slippery walking surface for as long as it takes to dry.
In short, store employees must do what a typical, prudent person would do in the same situation in order to prevent an injury.
Appropriately preparing displays is another important way to protect customers so that items don’t fall on them while shopping. When a store owner isn’t careful enough and an injury results, the store can face a premises liability lawsuit for the injuries or damages that occur as a result.
Under premises liability law, a store owner has a greater duty to keep their property safe than a person who allows others to use their property for non-commercial reasons. A store owner should take affirmative steps in order to inspect the property and discover things that may be dangerous to customers. When they discover any dangers, they must fix them or otherwise make sure that guests are aware of the hazard.
Florida visitor status: invitee or trespasser?
A customer at a store is called an invitee, meaning they are on the store’s property for the primary benefit of the store that wants to sell things to them. Therefore, a store owner must take reasonable, affirmative steps to keep customers safe from accidents. Store’s have a legal obligation to inspect the property for dangers and taking reasonable corrective measures before harm occurs.
Invitee’s have more rights under Florida law than trespassers. Property owners owe no real duty to protect trespassers from danger, except in the case of child trespassers and avoiding willful injury to the trespasser.
How does a store’s liability compare to a private property owner’s liability?
A store owner’s duty is unlike a duty that a person owes to someone who is on their property for a non-commercial purpose. In the latter case, the property owner must take steps to fix only dangerous conditions they already know about. They can warn any visitors to be careful around known dangers. The property owner doesn’t have to take steps to discover dangers they aren’t aware of.
For example, say a friend comes over to your house for dinner. The same day, a pipe bursts, sending water across the walkway. You, the host, don’t know about the water yet. Two hours later, the friend suffers a damaging fall on the wet walkway.
In this scenario, the private property owner isn’t liable because the friend is a licensee on the property. The private owner didn’t know about the water, so they didn’t have a duty to warn their friend.
However, if this same scenario played out at a store, the store owner could face liability for the victim’s personal injury losses. A jury could find that two hours was plenty of time for a store to discover and remedy the dangers of flooding water.
Consult a premises liability lawyer to find out if a store owes slip and fall damages
When a slip and fall accident occurs on store property, the property owner may face liability if it is established that they didn’t take reasonable steps to keep their property safe. In addition to damages for medical bills, the store owners may owe the victim for lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses.
No two cases are alike, and state law can vary from place to place. George Lorenzo and the rest of the team at Lorenzo & Lorenzo are ready to help you succeed in your Tampa, FL premises liability case. Contact us today for a free consultation to find out how.