Stores like Walmart and Target are busy places with hundreds, if not thousands, of people coming in and out of the store every day. Unsurprisingly, people will sometimes slip on water, soap, or leaking detergent and suffer serious injuries. But after the injured person receives the expensive bill for the emergency room, they may wonder what they can do about it.
Part of the process of pursuing a successful slip and fall accident claim with stores like Target is showing or, even better, proving that the store should have known about the defect. While there are no bright-line rules in this kind of situation, the courts will look at many factors in determining whether or not the defendant store should have known about the defect or issue that caused the slip or fall. One of those factors, for example, is customer traffic in the store. The Peterson v. Walmart Stores case demonstrates how courts will view stores with heavier foot traffic in claims like these.
Slip and fall accident claims can vary immensely from case to case. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about slip and fall accident cases. Consult an experienced personal injury lawyer at the Kryder Law Group to help you determine the viability of your claim and help you navigate through the claim process.
What is constructive notice?
As stated above, being able to prove that the store in question should have known about the issue or defect that caused a slip and fall accident is an important part of a successful claim. But sometimes the conditions that caused a slip and fall accident may be so obvious that an argument for a constructive notice can be made. A constructive notice is established where a condition has existed for such a length of time, or was so conspicuous, that authorities exercising reasonable care and diligence might have known of the condition. Burke v. Grillo, 227 Ill. App. 3d 9, 18 (1992). Notice of facts that would put a reasonable and prudent individual on inquiry, would render authorities chargeable with knowledge of any fact that might be discovered through a reasonable investigation. Pinto v. De Munnick, 168 Ill. App. 3d 771, 774 (1988). In other words, if the conditions that caused a slip and fall accident existed long enough or were so obvious and apparent that any reasonable authority figure would have knowledge of said conditions, then it could constitute constructive notice and help answer the question of whether the store should have known of the defect or issue.
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Do busy stores require frequent inspections to prevent slip and fall accidents?
Another factor in determining whether the store is at-fault in a slip and fall accident is whether the store has done its due diligence in inspecting its aisles for any potential hazards. In self-service stores where customer traffic is heavy and the probability of a slip and fall is high, a business owner owes a duty to frequently and carefully inspect and patrol aisles. Peterson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 241 F.3d 603 (2001). In the Peterson case, the plaintiff fell on a tile floor where he was shopping. The plaintiff stated that he slipped on shaving lotion that had spilled from a broken can of women’s shaving cream. Wal-Mart employees testified that they had walked down the same aisle just minutes before the accident and had seen no sign of spillage. The plaintiff then testified that he had been waiting in the aisle for his wife for ten minutes and during that time had neither seen any employees nor heard any sound of breakage. Based on this testimony the court concluded that the lotion was on the floor for at most ten minutes. There was also testimony that Wal-Mart continually patrolled the aisles for signs of spills.
The court further noted that the floors of large self-service general stores like Wal-Mart are smooth and include heavy customer traffic. The danger from spillage that is caused by customers or employees who accidently knock bottles or other containers off a shelf that can cause a fall that may cause serious injury is significant.
The court eventually reversed the lower court’s decision, citing that there was enough evidence to present to a jury for determination of Wal-Mart’s liability.
Should I hire a lawyer for a slip and fall accident claim?
Having an experienced attorney on your side is important when considering the factors in a slip and fall case:
- Is there circumstantial evidence surrounding your slip and fall?
- Can constructive notice be proved? Was the hazard obvious enough and present long enough for the store to be responsible?
The Peterson case does not offer a magic solution or a smoking gun when making a claim against the insurance of a big box store, but it does demonstrate that the court will consider circumstantial evidence. Additionally, it applies real world common sense that these large stores are busy and have lots of people walking around. There is no magic timer that a defect must exist on the floors of a store before it constitutes constructive notice. Conversely, there is no set requirement of how frequently a store must check its floors for any dangerous substance that may pose a threat to its customers. The court will look to the facts in the record before determining whether or not there is notice. The court will ask itself if there is a question of fact for a jury to decide. Proving constructive notice is not an easy task to do. The attorneys at the Kryder Law Group will sit down with you and discuss your personalized litigation strategy with you.
If you were injured due to a slip and fall on someone’s property, do not hesitate to reach out to us at the Kryder Law Group by calling us at 312-223-1700, by email at email@example.com or through our interactive chat on our website for a free and confidential consultation. The facts that are specific and unique to your situation will determine whether you are entitled to compensation under the law and whether you can recover monetary damages. It is important to contact our office soon because under Illinois law, there is a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit against the negligent party. We know injuries are incredibly stressful, so please read the positive reviews on our Google page and see how we’ve helped countless others handle similar injuries.