Anyone who has spent time in retail stores has seen the telltale signs that an accident happened, which is usually identified by the presence of a warning sign, orange cones, and/or ropes to cordon off an area. Often, these accidents are the result of some liquid spilling onto the floor, creating a slip and fall hazard that could endanger the safety of customers. By marking the area off, and taking steps to clean up the spill, the operators are acting responsibly and fulfilling their duty of care to keep the area open to the public free from dangerous hazards. Unfortunately, this level of attention and precaution is not employed at every store, and the result can be injured customers who slip and fall on substances present on the floor.
A woman recently sued Dollar Tree Stores Inc. after slipping and falling on a liquid substance left on the floor of an aisle during a visit to a Joliet location in April. Falling on a foreign substance while visiting a retail establishment is an all too familiar occurrence, and these companies need to be held accountable if negligence was involved. Premises liability law determines if a store owner/operator is responsible for an injury to a third party, and when it comes to a foreign substance on the floor, several factors influence whether a business may be found liable to pay compensation. An overview of how the law evaluates slip and fall cases involving foreign substances will follow below.
Premises Liability Law
All property owners owe a duty to third parties to keep the premises free from dangerous conditions, absent a situation involving a trespasser, and for retail operators specifically, the law requires businesses to keep the area open to customers safe. This means conducting regular inspections to identify potential danger, correcting known problems, and warning customers when risks are present. Failure to exercise this level of care exposes the store to liability if an injury occurs, and proving negligence in slip and fall cases typically comes down to three questions: why did the victim fall, how long was the hazard present, and how was it created? Answering these questions shows if the company had an opportunity to exercise control over the situation to keep customers safe, but failed to do.
Foreign Substance Issues
One of the major issues that are frequently central to slip and fall cases is whether the store had enough time before the accident occurred to identify the hazard and take corrective measures to fix it. This determination often hinges on the source of the foreign substance, i.e., was the substance caused by a normal business operation of the company, meaning it should be anticipated and handled immediately or was the cause an outside party the business could not reasonably anticipate. The amount of time considered reasonable will vary by the case, but a busy retail store will have a hard time convincing a jury that a liquid allowed to sit on the floor for hours unattended was a reasonable exercise of its duty of care.
In addition, the other main issue is whether the hazard was noticed by the customer or should have been obvious. Customers do have a responsibility to protect themselves from injury, and if a person knew of a danger but did nothing to protect him/herself, the business may avoid liability. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how best to assess the issues and determine the available legal options.
Contact a Lombard Slip and Fall Attorney
Suffering a slip and fall injury can be devastating, and the business where the accident occurred should be held responsible if negligence was involved. The dedicated DuPage County personal injury attorneys at the Mevorah Law Offices, LLC understand the pain you are experiencing and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact our office today at 630-932-9100 for a free consultation.
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