Are Tennessee Store Owners Liable for Bathroom Slip-and-Fall Accidents?
Public restrooms are often not the best-maintained or cleanest of places. So it is not unusual when a slip-and-fall accident occurs due to a puddle of liquid on the floor. But when a patron of a public business is harmed in such an accident, do they have a viable personal injury claim against the store owner?
Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Store Due to Lack of Evidence
To give you some idea of how the law works in this area, consider this recent decision by a federal judge in Nashville. This case involves a plaintiff who was injured in a restroom slip-and-fall accident at the defendant’s store. On the day in question, the plaintiff alleged he “slipped in a puddle of either urine or water.” He consequently sustained a shoulder injury when he tried to grab a nearby urinal “to brace himself.”
In his lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged the defendant “breached its duty of care by failing adequately to inspect and maintain the restroom in a safe condition.” The plaintiff asked for damages to compensate him for his medical bills and lost wages due to the shoulder injury. Before the court, the defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing it could not be held responsible as a matter of law for the plaintiff’s accident or injuries.
The judge agreed with the defendant. Under Tennessee law, the judge explained, the operator of a public premises like a store is not an “insurer of their patrons’ safety.” But the law does require all property owners to “maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition by removing or repairing dangerous conditions or by helping customers avoid injury by warning them of such dangerous conditions.”
This duty to maintain, however, only arises when the owner has “actual or constructive knowledge” of the dangerous condition. In other words, the plaintiff needs to provide evidence the store knew–or should have known through the exercise of reasonable care–that there was a puddle of liquid in the bathroom that someone could slip on. Here, the judge said the plaintiff failed to offer such evidence.
The plaintiff pointed to the fact the defendant kept “no records of its maintenance of the restroom” as proof there was a “disputed issue” of constructive notice requiring a full trial. Yet as the judge explained, a lack of evidence is not evidence. Since the law places the burden of proof on the plaintiff, he cannot cite the absence of maintenance logs as an indication of any “lack of inspection or cleaning” at the time of the accident. Indeed, the judge noted the potential for legal liability was perhaps a reason “why so few public restrooms are staffed by an attendant: those maintaining such restrooms are not risking liability merely because they do not have an attendant on the spot to promptly wipe up a spill on the restroom floor.”
Contact a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer Today
As you can see, proving a property owner’s liability in a slip-and-fall case is no easy task. This is why you need to work with a skilled Nashville personal injury lawyer who has experience in successfully handling such cases. If you need advice or assistance, contact the offices of Fox & Farley, Attorneys at Law, today.