Historically, Florida’s laws regarding slip and fall accidents developed much like the majority of negligence actions through the common law. Although the legislature sought to bring some uniformity to slip and fall cases by setting forth the duties of stores to invitees in 2002, in 2010 the legislature repealed the existing law and replaced it with a statute that was designed to place a greater burden on injured plaintiffs in proving the negligence of property owners.
Titled “premises liability for transitory foreign substances in a business establishment”, the title speaks volumes. Rather than protecting all property owners, the statute only applies to a “business establishment”. The intent of the legislature was to make it harder for someone who trips or slips in a store to recover for their injuries, and they largely succeeded.
The statute states:
(1) If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it. Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that:
(a) The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition; or
(b) The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
(2) This section does not affect any common-law duty of care owed by a person or entity in possession or control of a business premises.
Prior to its enactment, injured parties could establish a claim for relief in a slip-and-fall case by showing that the business owner acted negligently in failing to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance, inspection, repair, warning, or mode of operation of the business premises, without showing the business had actual or constructive knowledge of the transitory foreign substance.
Since most, if not all, businesses would never admit to knowing that something was spilled on the floor, injured parties must now offer proof that whatever they slipped and fell on had been on the floor long enough that the store’s employees should have known it was there and should have done something about it. In practice, the plaintiff must now offer proof, usually in the form of their own testimony, that something about the substance indicated it had been there a long time, like that it was dirty or in a changed state that could only have occurred over time.
Establishing this additional element (the courts have taken to calling it a “plus”) can be tricky and requires careful analysis of the facts, as well as detailed testimony from the injured party. Careful preparation of the case by an experienced lawyer at Law Office of Glenn C. McGovern is critical. Allow us to evaluate your case in a confidential and no cost consultation.