The California Court of Appeals, 2nd District, recently reached a decision in the case of Torres v. Target Corporation, Cal. Ct. App., 2nd Dist. (2014), which demonstrates the base level of proof required in slip and fall personal injury cases.
In the case, the plaintiff slipped and fell in a Target store shortly after the store opened for business. While the plaintiff testified that she felt some sort of unknown item under her sandal that caused her to lose her balance and fall, she could not determine what object made her fall, since there was nothing in the general vicinity once she was able to stand back up.
Regarding a potential source of the purported object, the store had been combed over several times before the time that the incident occurred.
The floor had been cleaned and checked by janitors that morning. Later, a group of employees had restocked the area with merchandise. Those employees were responsible for checking the area to ensure there was no debris or fall hazards on the floor, and they testified that they had done so.
Additionally, after the plaintiff fell, at least two employees conducted a sweep of the area, including touching the floor to detect any liquids, and they did not find anything.
Target moved for summary judgment, on the grounds that there was no evidence linking the plaintiff’s fall and any defective condition or other fault on Target’s part. In support of the motion, Target submitted the statements of the employees who had all been working in that area of the store that day.
The plaintiff introduced evidence regarding the conditions in the store, including more employees and activity, on the day of the incident, and that there were several potential ways that a piece of debris or other object could have fallen onto the floor and escaped notice.
In ruling on the summary judgment motion, the trial court found that the defendants had met their initial burden of establishing that there was no defective condition present in the store that Target should have had notice of. The trial court also found that the plaintiff failed to submit any evidence that Target breached any of its duties, and thus it granted the motion for summary judgment.
The elements of a negligence cause of action in California are:
- The existence of a legal duty of care;
- A breach of that duty;
- Proximate causation resulting in injury; and
- Actual damages.
Here, while the existence of a legal duty as a landowner/shopkeeper was evident, there was nothing to show that Target breached that duty by allowing for an unsafe condition. In fact, to the contrary, the defendants presented evidence that Target employees had inspected the premises within a reasonable time before the plaintiff’s accident and found no hazards, thus lending credence to the argument that even if a defective condition had existed at the time the plaintiff fell (which is unlikely considering nothing was found immediately afterwards), not enough time passed so that the defendant could have been deemed constructively on notice.
Thus, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court’s ruling, finding that the plaintiff did not present any evidence that the defendant had actual or constructive notice of any hazardous conditions within the store at the time of the plaintiff’s fall. Therefore, it affirmed the granting of summary judgment.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall situation, or any other premises liability type of incident, contact the skilled premises liability attorneys at Sharifi Firm. A skilled California slip and fall lawyer, such as those at Sharifi Firm, will have experience in getting to the bottom of cases like yours and should be able to prove negligence. It has been widely documented that claimants who seek professional assistance from an experienced accident attorney in California tend to receive higher settlements than those who tackle their claims on their own.
More Blog Posts:
California Court of Appeals Upholds Jury Decision in Low Speed Car Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published February 27, 2015
California Court of Appeals Upholds $1.25 Million Jury Award in Car Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published February 24, 2015