Florida Appeals Court Affirms Lower Court, Finding Against Plaintiff in Premise Liability Slip-And-Fall Case

In a recent case, the District Court of Appeals of the State of Florida Fifth District issued an opinion in an appeal involving a premises liability action arising from a slip-and-fall incident at a Wal-Mart store. The suit was between Sandra Leftwich, the Appellant, and Wal-Mart Stores East, LP (“Walmart”) and Thomas Schoendorf., the Appellees, arising from an incident where Leftwich slipped and fell in the Walmart.

Facts of the Case

The issue arose when Leftwich went to a Walmart location to shop and slipped on what she described as a clear liquid on the floor of the store. Video footage failed to capture the liquid, but an inspection of the area revealed a clear liquid on the ground after the incident. It is undisputed that Walmart had no prior knowledge of the liquid. In support of its motion, Walmart submitted the deposition of its former employee, Peterson, who was seen on the video pulling a pallet near the spill area nine minutes before the incident. The trial court’s order noted that Peterson’s pallet was not over the subject area or leaking.

In his deposition, Peterson explained that he was almost always looking on the floors for spills and debris. Given the area of the alleged spill, Peterson unequivocally testified that he would have noticed the liquid had it already been on the floor. When asked how long the spill was on the floor, he stated that it would have been there for less than ten minutes.

The trial court found in favor of Walmart, granting summary judgment and finding that Walmart did not have “constructive notice” regarding the liquid on the ground to establish that it was aware of the dangerous condition. On appeal, the burden shifted to the Appellant to come forward with counter-evidence sufficient to reveal a genuine issue. The opinion by the Fifth District disagreed with the argument by Leftwich, finding the evidence presented at trial to be lacking.

The appellate court opinion stated that the evidence presented, when viewed in the light most favorable to the Appellant, would not allow a reasonable jury to find that the dangerous condition existed for a length of time sufficient to establish constructive notice. The Fifth District affirmed the lower court decision.

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