Duty of Care in Florida Slip and Fall Cases - Sammon v. Target

November 8, 2012

Just because you're injured in an accident on another person's property doesn't mean the property owner is liable. In Sammon v. Target, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida explains that a plaintiff in a personal injury case against a business owner must show that the owner breached a duty owed to the plaintiff which caused the accident.

280366_warning_wet.jpgLinda Sammon was injured in a slip and fall accident at a Florida Target store where she was shopping with her family. While in line to check out, Sammon realized that she had forgotten an item. She walked through an empty check-out aisle to retrieve the item. Sammon fell when she apparently slipped on water spilled on the floor of the check-out aisle. Sammon's clothes, hands and legs were wet when a store manager and Sammon's son - Daniel Stevens - reached her. According to Stevens, he found his mother lying over a "very slick spot" on the floor.

Sammon and her husband sued Target, seeking to recover for her injuries based on various theories of negligence. The District Court granted the company's motion for summary judgment, however, finding that Target did not breach any duty owed to Sammon and her family.

The Court explained that the fact that an accident occurs on a business property does not necessarily mean that the property owner was negligent, not even in slip and fall accidents that happen on a wet floor. Rather, the injured party must prove that the owner owed the party a duty, breach of which caused the accident. "A landowner owes two duties to a business invitee: (1) to use reasonable care in maintaining the premises in a reasonably safe condition; and (2) to give the invitee warning of concealed perils which are or should be known to the landowner, and which are unknown to the invitee and cannot be discovered by him through the exercise of due care," the Court instructed, quoting the First District Court of Appeal's 1985 decision in Emmons v. Baptist Hospital.

Here, the Court ruled that Target did not breach it's duty to mop up the wet floor or warn Sammon and other shoppers about it because there was no evidence showing that the company knew or should have known that the floor was wet. Noting that the check-out aisle where the accident occurred was empty, the substance on the floor was clear and no track marks - indicating someone had previously walked through it - were present, the Court said there was no reason to believe that a Target employee should have known about the dangerous condition of the floor.

Furthermore, the record clearly indicated that Target trained its employees to regularly check the conditions at its stores and correct unsafe conditions, according to the Court. "There is no evidence suggesting that any Target employee failed to comply with Target's policies and procedures regarding detection and clean-up of unsafe conditions," the Court ruled.

As a result, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Target.

If you were recently injured in an accident and are interested in pursuing a claim against the property owner of the premises where you were injured, call the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine today. We represent clients throughout the region, including in Hialeah, Coral Springs and Pompano Beach. You can reach our Ft. Lauderdale offices at (800) 747-3733 or by filling out an on-line "Contact Us" form.

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Injured on Another Person's Property? Liability May Depend on the Fine Print - Marler v. U-Store-It Mini Warehouse Co.

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Court Says Florida Resort May be Liable for Injuries Incurred by Time Share Owner - Hackett v. Grand Seas Resort Owners' Association