No wet floor sign and security guard was daydreaming...

by Laura
(New Jersey)

I took a fall at a mall yesterday. Someone must have spilled a full Sprite as the wet spot was 3 to 5 feet wide with a few ice cubes. When I was down on the ground the security guard began saying, "Oh my god, I'm here because it's taking so long for housekeeping. I've been waiting 10 minutes. I'm here so no one will fall."

I went down hard on my knee. It is swollen, bruised and locking up today. I went to a walk-in medical center today, and after seeing the x-ray, the doctor suggested I see an orthopedist. I am also suffering pain in general as I do have lupus and I think this incident is bringing me into a flare.

I had a knee surgery on the same knee over 20 years ago and feel this fall may have screwed it up. There were no wet floor signs, a daydreaming security guard, and probably video showing 8 to 10 minutes waiting until housekeeping came with signs and mops, while I'm on the floor with an ice pack on my knee.

What are your thoughts here? Do I have a case? What can I do? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "No wet floor sign and security guard was daydreaming...":

Laura (New Jersey):

From the facts you present, the mall owners were negligent in failing to have the spill cleaned up within a reasonable amount of time after it occurred. Moreover, negligence may attach since the security guard made an implied admission of negligence.

It is important to note that mall owners and other commercial eateries are not automatically liable when someone slips and falls on a spilled drink, or otherwise wet floor. Property owners and their employees must have a reasonable amount of time to clean up a spill, or set out warning signs after a spill.

For example, if a mall customer was sitting at a table in the food court, and as he arose from the table spilled a drink on the floor, and one minute after the spill happened another person passing by slipped and fell, the mall owners would likely not be legally liable for the fall and resulting injuries.

The courts have consistently held that property owners must have reasonable notice and time to clean up the spill, or place cautionary signs.

The most sophisticated of malls can't be forced to have one or more employees continually walking around with a mop, cleaning up every spill within seconds after it occurred. To do so would be an entirely unreasonable burden.

In the alternative, if the spilled drink had been there for a much longer period of time, and the employees, including the security guard, failed to clean up the spill, or at a minimum place caution signs by the spill, then the mall owners would very likely be liable for injuries sustained by a person who slipped and fell.

The next issue is the extent of your injuries. At this point it appears your injuries include swelling, bruising and a "locked up" knee. If that is the case, and the mall owners are found negligent for not addressing the hazard, the owners will be liable for your medical bills, related out of pocket costs, lost wages, and your pain and suffering.

Contact several personal injury attorneys in your area. Most will not charge for an initial office consultation. Take along your medical records and bills, and related expenditures. While the mall owners are not under a legal obligation to release to you copies of the video, an attorney will be able to subpoena them.

After reviewing the facts surrounding your slip and fall, the attorneys will be able to give you a better idea of the viability of your claim and the probability of success.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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