Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing the duty that a business has to maintain the area that customers use to approach the business. Ultimately, the court concluded that while a business may be responsible for maintaining the immediate area of approach, the business in this case was not liable for the plaintiff’s injury which occurred about 45 feet outside of the store’s doors in the parking lot.
The case presents an interesting issue for Florida slip-and-fall accident victims because it discusses which parties may be liable for the various areas in a commercial shopping center. Importantly, only the store was named in this case, and not the shopping center that owned and maintained the parking lot.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was shopping at a Big Lots store when she slipped on a wet substance in the store’s parking lot while she was on her way back to her car. The location of the plaintiff’s fall was about 45 feet from the store’s door. The store was in a shopping center that was owned by another company, which was not named in the lawsuit.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against Big Lots, claiming that it was responsible to maintain the approach to and from the store. In support of her claim, the plaintiff presented evidence showing that the store manager came out after her fall to clean up the wet substance in the parking lot.
Big Lots argued that, while it may be liable for the areas immediately adjacent to the store’s entrances and exits, the parking lot was owned and maintained by a third-party and was not the store’s responsibility to maintain. The trial court agreed and granted the store’s motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff then appealed.
On appeal, the case as affirmed. The court took time to clarify what exactly the law required of store owners when it comes to maintaining the store’s “approach.” Specifically, the court held that a store is responsible to maintain the area that is “contiguous, adjacent to, and touching,” the store’s entryways. The court further clarified that this meant the “last few steps” a customer takes before entering the store.
Here, the court did not see the plaintiff’s case as a close-call, as the location of her fall was 45 feet outside the store’s entranceway. Additionally, the court explained that the store manager did not assume a duty that was not otherwise placed upon the store by cleaning up the spill. The court explained that had the store constructed a sidewalk or ramp, then it could be liable for an injury related to those fixtures, but simply offering to help clean up a spill after an accident did not give rise to a duty.
Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently slipped and fallen while shopping, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida premises liability lawsuit. Commercial retailers and other businesses have a duty to maintain their property so that it is safe for visitors. Third-party property owners and property managers may also be held responsible, depending on the specifics of your case. To learn more, call the dedicated South Florida injury lawyers at Friedman Rodman & Frank at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Claims Against Government Employees and Agencies Must Comply with the Requirements of the FTCA, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published August 31, 2018.
Jury Holds Railroad Company Liable for Fatal Train Accident, Court Upholds $10.4 Million Verdict, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published August 8, 2018.