Store Faces Trial After Woman Slips on “Applesauce Puddle”
Slip and fall accidents frequently occur in busy stores. While retailers may not be immediately aware of every spill that occurs on their premises, they should train their employees to identify a potential hazard to customers and take appropriate action. Even if a store has such policies, but the employees fail to follow them, the owner may still be responsible for a personal injury claim.
Employee’s Acts Suggest Store’s “Actual Knowledge” of Hazard
For instance, a federal judge in Nashville recently declined to grant summary judgment to a well-known national retailer in an ongoing slip and fall case. The plaintiff’s lawsuit centers on a store employee and whether her acts demonstrated the store’s “actual knowledge” of a hazard that caused the plaintiff to fall and seriously injure herself.
According to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, she was shopping in the grocery section of a store in Franklin, Tennessee. The plaintiff and her cousin were walking down an aisle where the store kept applesauce. They did not notice a “puddle of applesauce approximately 12 inches wide” on the floor.
The plaintiff slipped and fell on the applesauce puddle. The fall caused significant damage to her hips. The plaintiff “required two surgeries and prolonged rehabilitation,” according to court records.
The plaintiff sued the store for negligence. She alleged the store had “actual knowledge” of the applesauce puddle because “within seconds” of the plaintiff’s fall, a store employee appeared with a mop. This indicated the employee had previously seen the puddle and left to get cleaning equipment–without making any effort to mark the hazard or warn customers.
In fact, store policy required employees to “stand guard” when a spill is observed and ask for other employees to retrieve cleaning supplies. The store also acknowledged in pre-litigation discovery that “someone should be inspecting the floor at least every 15 minutes” for anything that might lead to a slip and fall accident.
Despite this, the store still moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was no conclusive evidence it had “actual notice” of the spill–and even if it did, the applesauce puddle was such an “open and obvious” hazard, the plaintiff was at-fault for failing to avoid it. At a minimum, the store said the plaintiff was at least equally to blame for the accident.
The trial judge rejected both arguments. Without ruling on the merits, the judge said the plaintiff presented evidence from which a jury could reasonably find that the store employee “failed to take reasonable steps–as required by company policies–to warn customers in the general area of the spill,” thereby making the store negligent.
As for the plaintiff’s purported comparative fault, the judge said the store’s own arguments contradicted its claim the applesauce spill was an “open and obvious” hazard. In fact, the store maintained its employees never saw the applesauce puddle prior to the accident–which would mean it was not an obvious hazard. Furthermore, the plaintiff testified she could not see the applesauce because its color “blended in” with the floor.
Need Help From a Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyer?
Slip and fall cases often turn on very specific factual issues like the one in the case above. This is why it is important to speak with a Knoxville premises liability attorney as soon as possible following an accident. Our attorneys know how to investigate these cases and make sure you go into court armed with all of the facts. Contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, to speak with a qualified Tennessee personal injury lawyer today.