Proving Liability in a Slip and Fall Case
In slip and fall or other premises liability cases, in addition to showing injury, the key element that you must prove to hold a property owner liable for any injuries you may have suffered is negligence. This may include proving that the property owner or person responsible for the property either:
- Should reasonably have known that there was a hazardous condition on the property but did not exercise reasonable care to know that it existed and, therefore, failed to remove the hazard or warn invitees to avoid it
- Knew that a hazardous condition existed on the property but took no action to remove it or warn invitees to avoid it
- Actually created a hazardous condition on the property and did not remove it or warn invitees to avoid it
A second sticky issue complicates the matter, however, when an owner with a duty of care to invitees stations a “Wet Floor” sign somewhere on the premises for the purpose of warning invitees about a hazard and to avoid it.
Is Posting a “Wet Floor” Sign a Sufficient Warning?
Obviously, the introduction of the “Wet Floor” sign serves as a warning, which, for the owner, arguably satisfies the duty to exercise reasonable care and defeats your claim of negligence. But the issue is not simply whether the warning sign was posted. The issue will depend on how and where the warning sign was posted.
For example, if the surface of the second floor of my building were flooded with water, thereby posing a very slippery and dangerous condition for anyone getting off the elevator on that floor, and I placed a “Wet Floor” sign at the first floor entrance to the building to warn you of the hazardous condition on the second floor, the question becomes whether it is reasonable to think that you have been warned of the dangerous condition and will avoid it. A jury may conclude that you should have seen the sign, been warned, and avoided the hazard under those circumstances. Another jury may conclude that it was not reasonable to think that you should have been warned and, therefore, in effect, I provided no warning. Thus, the question of whether a “Wet Floor” sign satisfies the duty to warn and defeats a claim for slip and fall injuries is simply a question of reasonableness.
Was It Reasonable to Think That You Should Have Been Warned by the Sign and Avoided the Hazardous Condition?
Simply put, the answer to this question is: “It depends.”
On what does it depend?—Reasonableness. That is to say that a “Wet Floor” sign will be considered as a sufficient warning for purposes of satisfying one’s duty of care and, therefore, defeating a claim of negligence in a slip and fall case, when a trier of fact (a judge or a jury) concludes that, based on how and where the “Wet Floor” sign was placed, a reasonable person would have been warned by the sign and avoided the dangerous condition.
Whether a reasonable person should have been warned by the sign and avoided the dangerous condition, then, depends on the facts of each case. To determine whether the facts of your case are sufficient, you should contact us at Foster Wallace to arrange a free consultation so we can understand the facts of your case and advise you.
We will want to know the facts of your case that are relevant to the “Wet Floor” sign, as well as the circumstances that caused you not to observe the warning sign and avoid the hazard. We will have many questions, such as:
- Can you describe the wet floor that caused you to slip and fall?
- How big was the “Wet Floor” sign?
- Where was it located in relation to the hazard?
- Where was it located in relation to you?
- What did the warning sign indicate?
- What was the condition of the sign? Was it dirty?—Broken?—Hidden by another object?
- Was the sign written in words or did it demonstrate a picture?
- In what language was it written?—Do you read in that language?
- What were you doing when you were near the sign?—Were you looking at your phone?--Reading the paper?--Talking to someone?—Sneezing?—Wearing sunglasses?, etc.
In our consultation with you, based on the facts of your case, we will determine whether it was unreasonable to think that you should have seen and been warned by the “Wet Floor” sign and, therefore, should have avoided the hazardous condition.