In 2009, the Florida Legislature made changes to the state’s slip and fall law. These changes went into effect July 1, 2010 and brought the burden of proof back to the plaintiff to provide evidence to the court that the defendant (in most cases the business owner) had notice of the dangerous condition that caused the plaintiff’s injury. The dangerous condition was described as a transitory foreign substance, which was defined by the Florida Supreme Court in Owens v. Publix Supermarkets as “any liquid or solid substance, item or object located where it does not belong.” By placing the burden on the plaintiff to prove knowledge of the dangerous substance or condition, Florida Statute §768.0755 may make it more difficult for the person injured in a slip and fall to hold the business owners responsible for their injuries.
Proving the Business Owner Had Notice
The injured party may prove the business owner(s) had notice of the transitory foreign substance by showing that they had “actual or constructive notice” of the dangerous condition. Providing evidence that the business owner had actual notice (concrete or tangible notification) of the condition may be very difficult to establish. Under most circumstances, the plaintiff will have to show that the business owner had constructive notice of the condition.
In order for the injured party to sufficiently provide evidence of constructive notice, previous Florida premises liability cases show that it is very important to be able to demonstrate the length of time the transitory foreign substance was on the floor. For example, a frozen product that has been on the floor long enough to have melted. Whether the length of time was sufficient to provide the business owner with notice is determined by the judge or jury. Proving the amount of time can be especially challenging when the nature of the substance makes it difficult to distinguish how long it may have been on the floor, such as a slick substance that does not contain tread marks or dirt (Evens v. Eastern Airlines, Inc).
Injured in a Slip and Fall?
Generally, it seems like a slip and fall injury should be intuitive or easy for the injured person to prove. However, in reality, premises liability matters are often complex and changes in the law, like the one in 2010, may make them even more difficult to prove. Therefore, if you have been injured due to slipping or tripping and falling in an establishment, call attorney Mike Hancock for a free consultation of your case. Our phones are answered 24/7.