Florida businesses have a duty to protect the public against injury. Our experienced slip and fall attorneys know that the most common injury people suffer in businesses are slip and fall injuries. In Florida slip and fall accidents, the injured party must demonstrate that the company was negligent, causing the person to fall and suffer injuries. Slip and falls can cause severe injuries. People injured in slip and fall accidents generally suffer injuries ranging from broken bones, especially broken hips, wrists, and collarbones. Also, injured people experience spinal injuries such as disc herniation, while others who fall and strike their heads can suffer from traumatic brain injury and concussions.
The duty of Florida businesses is clear. Companies must warn of dangers that are either known to the business owner yet unknown to the public, that the public cannot know about even if the people are careful. Also, business owners have a duty to warn their invitees about hazards of which the business owner should be aware. Florida law imposes a duty on business owners to make regular inspections of their premises so that they can learn of any dangers to the public and then take reasonable measures to fix the hazard or warn the public about the danger. However, the business owner has no duty to warn the public about dangers that are open and obvious. If the hazard is open and obvious, then the business owner can rely on people’s common sense to avoid getting hurt.
In most slip and fall cases, the question for the jury to answer is whether the proprietor used “ordinary care to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition.” A spilled substance or item that does not belong on the floor is called transitory by Flordia courts. When something falls on the floor causing the business owner has to act to protect their customers. Florida law does not require that the store owner immediately act. Rather, courts look at what is reasonable under the circumstances. Most Florida stores have internal policies that dictate regular cleaning, sweeping, and inspection schedules. These policies do not create an extraordinary duty of care on behalf of the public. On the one hand, the injured party can use those procedures to demonstrate whether the store acted negligently. On the contrary, the store is not automatically liable for a person’s injuries for failing to follow the precise cleaning and inspection policies.
A recent decision from the Third District of the Florida District Court of Appeals illustrates how difficult proving that a store is liable can be under Florida law. A shopper at a local store fell and suffered personal injuries when a bottle of detergent broke open, and its contents covered the floor. A task occupied a store employee at the end of the aisle in which the bottle broke. The employee immediately diverted his attention from his work and went to the spill. He began cleaning the area when the plaintiff came around the corner of the aisle. According to the surveillance video from the aisle, the spill was easy to see. The shopper slipped and fell in the spilled detergent. The Court said that the store was not liable for her injuries. Not only was the spill open and obvious, but the employee also acted reasonably by trying to clean the spill even though the employee did not follow store procedure by displaying a warning sign in the aisle. The amount of time from the spill to fall lasted 13 seconds. The short period played a significant factor in the Court’s ruling.
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