After Slipping in Grocery Store, Woman’s Premises Liability Case Fails Because She Cannot Prove How Long the Hazard Was Present

In a recent case in front of an appellate court, a woman slipped on a piece of watermelon at a grocery store and then sued the store for her injuries. About six feet away from where the woman had fallen, a man had been handing out samples of watermelon to customers. However, the woman did not know how long the watermelon had been on the floor, and there was no evidence that the watermelon was on the floor for any length of time. The woman argued that the store was negligent because it knew or should have known that the floor was wet and posed a danger to customers. She argued that handing out watermelon samples in a high-traffic location created a dangerous condition for customers.

Watermelon PiecesThat state’s supreme court granted a dismissal of the case. The court found that there was no evidence that the store created the dangerous condition through its employee’s distribution of the watermelons. It also found that the store did not have constructive knowledge of the dropped watermelon because there was no evidence of how long it was there. Finally, the court rejected the woman’s argument that the state should adopt the mode-of-operation rule, which looks at a business’ particular mode of operation in creating a dangerous condition, and under which the plaintiff is not required to prove that the store had notice of the condition. Since it rejected this approach, the case failed.

Mode of Operation Liability and the Illinois Approach

Generally, in slip-and-fall cases, a plaintiff must prove that the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that caused the injury. That means that the plaintiff must prove through some evidence that the store had actual knowledge of the condition or that it existed for long enough that the store had constructive knowledge, or should have known, of the condition.

However, in the mode of operation approach, a plaintiff may prove negligence by showing that the owner’s operation created a likelihood of a dangerous condition. The owner can then rebut this by showing that they exercised reasonable care. However, not all states have adopted this approach.

In Illinois, under the Premises Liability Act, generally property owners owe a duty of “reasonable care” considering the relevant circumstances. In slip-and-fall cases, courts look at whether a danger was foreseeable. Often, this requires that the store knew or should have known of its presence. But a plaintiff is not required to prove actual or constructive notice if there is evidence that the substance was placed on the premises through the defendant’s negligence. Furthermore, under its own mode of operation approach, a plaintiff can also show that the product was sold by or related to the defendant’s operations and that it was more likely that the defendant or its employees dropped the substance, rather than the customer.

Have You Been Injured on Someone Else’s Property?

If you have been hurt on someone else’s property and believe that the landowner was responsible, the Chicago premises liability attorneys at Moll Law Group are available to help you seek compensation. In premises liability cases, evidence can disappear quickly, and it is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible. Our personal injury attorneys represent people in Naperville, Wheaton, Schaumburg, and throughout Cook County. Call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us through our online form to set up a free initial consultation.

See More Posts:

Automated Driving Presents New Risks for Drivers, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, August 16, 2016.

Woman Fails to Provide Required Notice in Medical Malpractice Claim, Resulting in Dismissal, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, July 23, 2016.

Court Hold Adults Who Serve Alcohol to Minors May Be Liable for Related Injuries, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, August 9, 2016.