People slip and fall in a public place, like a supermarket or department store every day. Many times, these falls are caused by what we call a transitory foreign substance. In basic terms, this is something that you find on the floor that should not be there and can either be moved, removed or cleaned fairly easily. A mis-leveled sidewalk is not a transitory foreign substance, because it is fixed on the ground. Water or other liquids from spills or leaks are the most common transitory foreign substances

Just because something is on the floor of a public place does not mean that store is responsible or liable if someone slips and falls upon it. Florida has a very specific statute that governs these instances. Florida statute 768.0755 states:

If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it. Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that:

  • (a) The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition; or
  • (b) The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.

In general, it is often impossible for an accident victim to determine how long a dangerous condition existed on a property. However, certain things you can do right after a fall can help your attorney prove notice. First, take pictures, lots of them, close-up and from afar. There are many clues in slip and fall cases that attorneys can use to help establish constructive knowledge on the part of a property owner or business. For instance, the size and location of spill matter. A few drops of liquid on the floor near a loading dock may not be noticed. But a 6-foot-wide puddle near a cash register or store entrance should absolutely be seen by store employees using reasonable care.

How long was the substance on the floor? A question attorneys ask injury victims all the time, even though it is almost impossible for them to answer it. But context clues can certainly help to meet the statutory requirement of proving constructive knowledge. If the substance covered a large area and had footprints or cart tracks going through it, one can argue that it has been there along enough for several people to walk through it and therefore long enough that the store should have known about and should have cleaned it up. Dirty water usually means it’s been there longer than fresh, clean water. Substance that are sticky around the edges, drying in parts, having flies or other bugs swarming around it are all indications that the spill had been there quite a while.

Look to see where a spill came from. If it was from a woman pushing a cart with a child holding a leaky sippy cup 10 feet in front of you, then it would not be reasonable to hold the store responsible, because in all likelihood they had no notice of the dangerous condition, nor did they have a reasonable time to clean the area. But, if you see a trail of water coming out from a nearby cooler or refrigerator, that’s a different story altogether. Look around for other signs that the store may have had some notice. Are there mats around? Are those mats dry or wet? Do the mats cover enough of the area? Are the mats properly laid flat on the ground, or are they rolled up or frayed? All of these little details matter and could help prove that the business owner was negligent and responsible for your injuries.

For more information on how premises liability claims are handled or to seek answers to questions you may have regarding trip and fall or slip and fall accidents, contact the personal injury attorneys of Cutler Rader today. Our attorneys are standing by and ready to help. We offer free consultations and a no recovery, no fee guarantee.
We offer our clients the compassion and guidance they need as they work through trying times in their lives. The balance of working relentlessly for our clients combined with our caring approach has helped us achieve a fantastic record of success with our clients. We get our clients the justice they deserve.

Cutler Rader, P.L.

With over 75 years of combined experience, the attorneys at Cutler Rader understand the meaning of Justice. Our one and only mission is to get each client the justice he or she deserves; our team of attorneys never back down when we know our client is right.
We offer our clients the compassion and guidance they need as they work through trying times in their lives. The balance of working relentlessly for our clients combined with our caring approach has helped us achieve a fantastic record of success with our clients. We get our clients the justice they deserve.

At Cutler Rader, You matter. Your justice matters. Your Justice Starts Here. 954-913-2273.