Many businesses require patrons to physically enter their premises in order to exchange their goods and services. The act of physically moving throughout one’s property presents the risk of an invitee sustaining an injury related to a slip and fall. This risk is especially likely in the food service industry, where food and liquid often end up on the floor in areas frequented by patrons.
“Slip and fall” incidents fall within the general gamut of personal injury law, whereby the law allows an injured person to recover for damages they incurred as a result of an injury. Often, a slip and fall incident can lead to a lawsuit in which the injured person alleges that the property owner, business, or both, are liable on a cause of action for premises liability. In these types of cases, a cause of action for general negligence is also not uncommon.
In California, to prove that a defendant is liable for a slip and fall incident, once must show that:
- The defendant owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property;
- The defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
- The plaintiff was harmed; and
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the harm.
In evaluating a slip and fall incident, it is important to note the distinct difference between a “slip and fall” and a “trip and fall.” A slip and fall is typically caused by wet or slippery surfaces, causing a lack of friction between foot and surface. A trip and fall, however, can be caused by an object on the ground, or an uneven surface on the ground itself.
When presented with a situation where a slip and fall, or trip and fall, has occurred on one’s premises, it is important to note the types of injuries sustained. This information can provide valuable insight into what the individual may have slipped or tripped on, which is important in investigating the events leading up to when that substance, object, or damage to the floor appeared and whether that condition was known by the landowner or the occupier of the premises, or both. While it is not required that the condition be known prior to the incident, it is required that the dangerous condition have existed for a sufficient period of time such that had the defendant exercised reasonable care in inspecting the premises, he or she would have discovered the conditions and remedied it or warned others before the injury occurred. Oldenburg v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Slip and fall incidents present significant legal challenges, and it is best to contact an attorney to better understand ones rights and responsibilities when inviting consumers onto a premises.