Target Store Slip and Fall Injury Claims in Florida

Target Accident Settlements Injuries Florida Store 

There are many injury claims, settlements and verdicts in personal injury cases with Florida Target Stores.You may have a case if Target’s carelessness causes your injury in Florida.  There is a ton of information on this site about Florida slip and fall claims and other types of cases.  Here, I focus on Florida Target cases.

Slip and Falls on the Sales Floor

Balck Substance with Footprints on Floor at a Store
Black Substance with Footprints on Floor at a Store

Take pictures of any substance on the floor if you slip and fall at Target.  Take a close up (seen above).

Take pictures from further away as well (as seen above).

Slip and Falls near Check Out Areas at Targets Stores in Florida

black substance on the floor near a store checkout counter.
Arrow pointing to a black substance on the floor near a checkout counter.

A customer may slip and fall on a substance near the checkout counter of a Target Store.  The customer should take pictures of the substance.

Pictures should be taken from:

  • Close up and far away; and
  • Multiple angles

A customer needs to prove that Target had actual notice or constructive notice of the hazard on the floor before the fall.

Accidents in a Starbucks store inside a Florida Target Store

Starbuck Store
Many Florida Target stores have a Starbucks Coffee Store inside.

Many Target Stores in Florida have a Starbucks inside.  Starbuck’s carelessness may cause a customer to get injured.

If so, the customer may have an injury case against Starbucks.  The most likely claim in this area would be if a person slips on moisture.

Substances on the floor in a Starbucks store.
Arrows pointing at substances on the floor.

This includes water, coffee, lemonade, whip cream or another liquid.  Someone may also trip and fall over a mat or object.

Starbucks should inspect its mats to make sure that they have good traction on the bottom.

I have settled many slip and fall cases for people hurt in Florida or on a cruise.  The verdicts below against Target are not my cases.

Target Verdicts and Cases for Florida Slip, Trip and Falls

In Nucci v. Target Corporation, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 4th Dist. 2015Maria Nucci sued Target for her personal injury.  This is not my case.

The claimant had two Florida lawyers.  One was from Orlando, Orange County, Florida.  The other was from Fort Lauderdale.

Target was defended by Nicolette N. John and Thomas W. Paradise of Vernis & Bowling of Broward, P.A., in Hollywood, Broward County, Florida.

The appeals court affirmed (agreed with) the trial court’s ruling that she was required to give Target photographs from her Facebook account.

In her personal injury lawsuit, Nucci claimed that on February 4, 2010, she slipped and fell on a foreign substance on the floor of a Target store. In the lawsuit, she claimed the following:

Target took Nucci’s deposition on September 4, 2013. Before the deposition, Target’s lawyer viewed Nucci’s Facebook profile and saw that it contained 1,285 photographs.  Target’s lawyer examined Nucci’s Facebook profile two days after the deposition and saw that it listed only 1,249 photographs.

Warning! Do not delete photographs on Facebook or any other social network.

Valles v. Target Corporation, Dist. Court, SD Florida 2015

In Valles, Christine Valles and William Emilio Valles sued Target Corporation.  The case wound up in the United States District Court, S.D. Florida, which is federal court.

The appeal was decided on April 9, 2015. The judge granted Target’s Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed the case.

Christine Valles was shopping at a Target store in Pembroke Pines, Florida with her daughter-in-law, Kelly. While the two were separated, Christine Valles fell.

She broke her wrist, fractured her nose, cut her lip, and injured both of her elbows. No one saw her fall, and no one saw anything on the floor near where she fell.

My thoughts:  The judge felt that the fact that no one saw her fall was important enough to mention it in his order (ruling).Target will decrease the full settlement value of your slip and fall case if no one saw you fall, and it was not recorded on their video surveillance.

This is because a jury may not believe that you fell.  Valles sued Target, claiming that its negligence caused her injuries.

Target asked for a summary judgment (dismissal), arguing that Valles had no evidence to show that Target was negligent. Valles opposes the motion, arguing that the evidence shows there was something on the floor that caused her to slip and fall.

Because Valles did not present any evidence, either direct or circumstantial, that would give rise to an inference that a foreign substance had been on the floor for a sufficient length of time to charge Target with constructive knowledge of its presence, the Court granted Target’s summary-judgment motion.

It dismissed the case.  The judge then wrote the following:

1. Florida law requires a slip-and-fall plaintiff prove the store had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition that caused her to fall.

The mere fact that a person falls in a store does not automatically mean that the store is liable. Bucholtz v. City of Jacksonville, 72 So. 2d 52, 53 (1954). Before there can be a recovery for an injury of this kind, the person must show some negligence on the part of the store.

The person claiming negligence must prove that the store was aware, or should have been aware, of the dangerous condition that caused her injuries. Publix Super Markets, Inc. v. Schmidt, 509 So. 2d 977, 978 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987).  (Learn more about Publix slip and fall cases in Florida).

Florida has a statute (law) that applies for slip and falls at a store.  It says:

If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it.” Fla. Stat. § 768.0755(1) (2013).

Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that . . . the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition. Fla. Stat. § 768.0755(1)(a) (2013).

In many negligence cases the critical issue is whether the store should have been aware of the dangerous condition. A person can establish this fact by producing some evidence to indicate how long the condition existed, how it was created, or who caused it.

For example, a person could show that a store should have been aware of a dangerous condition by presenting evidence that she slipped on a “piece of black looking rotten banana,” on the floor of area that was “exclusively occupied” by the store’s employees, that had not been cleaned for “about an hour and a half” before she fell. Marlow v. Food Fair Stores of Fla.,284 So. 2d 490, 491-93 (Fla. 3d DCA 1973).  (Learn more about Florida supermarket slip and fall claims).

The fact that the banana was black and rotten suggests that it had been there for some time since a banana is usually yellow and becomes darker the longer it is exposed to the air. The fact that it was in an area of the store exclusively occupied by store employees suggests a store employee dropped it there.

And the fact that the area had not been cleaned or inspected for an hour and a half suggests that the store could have discovered it if it had a more regular cleaning schedule.

In another example, a person was able to establish that a foreign substance (a collard green leaf) was on a store’s floor long enough to charge the store with constructive knowledge of its presence by presenting testimony that the collard green leaf was “old, wilted, and dirty looking.” Montgomery v. Fla. Jitney Jungle Stores, Inc., 281 So. 2d 302, 303, 306 (Fla. 1973).

Winn Dixie bought Jitney Jungle after that case.  (Learn about Florida Winn Dixie slip and fall claims).

The fact that the leaf was old, wilted, and dirty suggests that it had been on the floor for a relatively long time since collard green leaves presented for sale in a store’s produce section usually appear new, fresh, and clean.

As a final example, a person was able to establish that the dangerous condition that caused her to slip and fall (orange juice concentrate) existed for a sufficient length of time to charge the store with constructive knowledge by presenting evidence that the “orange juice concentrate . . . was partially frozen and partially liquefied.” Gizzard v. Colonial Stores, Inc., 330 So. 2d 768, 769 (Fla. 1976).

The fact that the orange juice concentrate, which is kept frozen, had partially melted suggests that the orange juice concentrate was on the floor for a relatively long time.

The take-away from these examples is that, under Florida law, a person claiming that a store was negligent by not cleaning up a dangerous condition must present some evidence that the dangerous condition that caused her fall existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the store would have known of the condition. Fla. Stat. § 768.0755(1)(a) (2013); see also Vallot v. Logan’s Roadhouse, Inc., 567 F. App’x 723, 726 (11th Cir. 2014) (affirming an order granting summary judgment— under the framework of Florida Statute Section 768.0755(1)(a)—where the plaintiff failed to establish that the restaurant had actual or constructive notice of a slippery substance on the floor where he fell). (Learn about Florida restaurant slip and fall injury claims).

Back to the facts of Valles.

2. Valles did not presented any evidence to establish that a dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that Target would have discovered it if it acted reasonably.

No one ever saw anything on the floor near where Valles fell. Christine Valles did not see anything.

Her daughter-in-law, who was at the store with her, did not see anything. And none of the Target employees saw anything on the floor.

And the area had been inspected by a Target employee less than 20 minutes before Valles fell.

My thoughts: The court seems to suggest that 20 minutes is not enough time to create constructive notice.  However, this is just one factor in this case.

Although Valles had evidence to support an inference that there may have been something on the floor that day in the Target store, she has not presented any evidence to support the inference that the condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the store would have known of the condition.

In responding to Target’s summary-judgment motion, Valles relied on her testimony that after the fall she felt something sticky on the bottom of her shoes, and her daughter-in-law’s testimony that Target employees were cleaning up something on the floor near her feet where there did not appear to be any blood.

The inference she draws is that there was something on the floor of the Target store that caused her to fall. But even accepting this inference as true, Valles has still not presented any evidence to show that a Target employee put the substance on the floor, that Target knew about the substance and didn’t clean it up, or that Target should have known about the substance and cleaned it up.

She has offered no evidence that would give rise to an inference that the substance had been on the floor for a sufficient length of time to charge Target with constructive knowledge of its presence.

The court said that this case is not like the melted-orange-juice-concentrate case, the old-wilted-dirty-collard-green-leaf case, or the black-rotten-banana case. Based on the absence of evidence presented by Valles, this case would be described as the invisible-disappearing-liquid case.

Because Valles has not presented any evidence, either direct or circumstantial, that would give rise to an inference that the foreign substance had been on the floor for a sufficient length of time to charge Target with constructive knowledge of its presence, this case must be dismissed. See Evens v. Eastern Air Lines, Inc., 468 So. 2d 1111, 1112.  (Learn more about slip and fall injury claims against Airlines in Florida).

Conclusion in Valles Case

The judge said that this is a hard case.

My thoughts: Any Florida slip and fall lawyer will tell you that slip and fall cases are difficult.  Some cases are harder than others though.

There is no doubt that Christine Valles fell in the Target store and suffered very serious injuries. By all accounts, these injuries have had a substantial impact on her life.

But the law does not make a store responsible to every person that gets hurt while shopping. To hold a store responsible, the person must be able to prove that she was injured because the store failed to do something that a reasonable store would have done.

In this case, there is simply no evidence that Target failed to do something that a reasonable store would have done.

For these reasons, the Court granted Target’s motion for summary judgment.  Target won.  The injured lady lost and got nothing.

Garcia v. Target – Defense verdict. October 2014.

Rosa Garcia and her son, Frank Garcia, went to Target Corporations’s store.  It is located at 5800 South University Drive in Davie, Broward County, Florida.  They were there to have their eyes examined.  They were also there for food shopping.

They were there for many hours.  It was not raining.  She “did not notice it was wet.”  While exiting the Target store, she slipped and fell.

Before she fell, Rosa did not see anything on the floor because she said she was walking.  Following the fall, she saw that the floor was wet.  She also noticed her pants were wet.  She said she saw “drops of water [and] water all over.”

She said the water was covering about two or three floor tiles.  Frank noticed that the floor was wet after her fall.  He saw a puddle where she fell.  It was surrounded by water with footsteps.

He noticed a footprint from a Timberland brand boot in the water.  He also saw other footprints.  He said it looked as if crowds of people had walked in after it was raining.  There was a streak.

After the accident, a Target employee wiped the floor.  They placed a “caution wet floor” sign there.  Target tried to have the case dismissed based on Delgado v. Laundromax, Inc., 65 So.3d 1087 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.2011).  The shopper’s attorney said that Delgado is distinguishable.

Her attorney also argued that the footprints in the water create a question of fact as to Target’s constructive notice.  The judge issued an opinion which said:

“In Delgado, the plaintiff, who slipped and fell, initially testified she did not see the substance on which she slipped, but that it looked like water because it was transparent.

There was no evidence in the record that it was raining or that any of the defendant laundromat’s washers or sinks were located near where she fell. Id. at 1090.

Nor were there any additional facts that the spill was on the floor for a long a period of time prior to the accident. Id.

The court noted that the plaintiff testified that she did not know where the water came from, she did not see any water anywhere else other than where she slipped, she did not know how long the water was on the floor, and she did not know of any laundromat employees who knew the water was on the floor. Id.”

The court disagreed with Target that Delgado is the same as the Target case.

The court said that shopper’s son testified that there were “footprints in the water on the floor and that it appeared crowds of people had walked in after it was raining, despite the fact that there is evidence that it was not raining the day Plaintiff fell in the store.

These facts raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Defendant knew there was water on the floor but ignored it or should have discovered it earlier.”

The customer filed a lawsuit in state court.  Target removed the case to federal court.

Target’s attorney was David Cooney of Cooney Trybus.  Rosa Garcia v. Target Corporation.

My thoughts:  Target usually removes slip and fall cases to Federal Court.  Some Florida federal judges are more likely than Florida state court to dismiss a slip and fall case.  This is true if it is a case that is tough to prove that Target is negligent.

Florida slip and fall cases may still be won if there is a warning sign in place.  Though, they are usually much tougher.

Slip and fall cases are difficult.  You can see that from this defense verdict.  The shopper’s attorney probably spent $15,000 to $20,000 of his own money on the case.  This is in addition to countless hours spent working on the case.

Defense verdict.  Marie Corrine Doudeau vs. Target Corporation.

Doudeau was shopping at the Target store in Hollywood, Broward County, Florida, with her daughter, Danielle Bohenstiel, on August 1, 2011. On that day, it had been raining intermittently and there was standing water in the parking lot and the area in front of the store.

Doudeau proceeded to the back of the store and walked around the entire store before heading back towards the front. She was in the front of the store, near the “One Spot,” which was located approximately ten to fifteen feet from where the carpet at the entrance of the store ended.

While holding onto the side of her daughter’s shopping cart and walking, Doudeau slipped and fell to the floor.  Doudeau testified that she landed in a twelve-inch puddle of clean water that had no tracks or footprints in it.

The district (trial) court granted summary judgment in favor of Target Corporation in her personal injury lawsuit.  Doudeau appealed.  The appeals court said that the district court relied primarily upon two cases in its decision.

In Sammon v.Target Corporation, 2012 WL 3984728 (M.D. Fla. 2012), the court granted summary judgment to Target because it held that the plaintiff had not shown constructive or actual knowledge on the part of the corporation.

The court pointed out that it had not been raining and there was no indication of how the water plaintiff slipped in had gotten on the floor.

Similarly, in the other case, Delgado v. Laundromax, Inc., 65 So.2d 1087 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011), the court granted summary judgment to the defendant because the plaintiff provided no evidence that the defendant had constructive or actual knowledge of the presence of water on the floor at a laundromat.

There, too, the court pointed out that there was no evidence that it was raining or had rained, which would have provided the source of the water.  Learn more about slip and fall injury claims against Florida laundromats.

By contrast, in Doudeau, the appeals court said that there was testimony that it had been raining and there was standing water in the parking lot.

Further, an employee who helped Doudeau after she fell stated that the water must have been tracked in from outside. Another Target employee testified that the area ten to fifteen feet away, where the carpet met the tile, was a known slip and fall area when it rained.

The appeals court said that although the district (trial) court assumed that this area—with respect to which a Target employee said was a known slippery area when it rained—was “an entirely different location of the store from where the plaintiff fell,” a reasonable jury could find otherwise.

While the district court stated that the testimony of Target employee Michael Protz was that he had walked through the area less than four minutes before the fall and there was nothing there, Protz actually testified that he did not see anything on the floor.

A review of the surveillance video shows Protz walking through the area but his gaze is not on the floor but instead at the customers, which would be logical given that Protz is in charge of loss protection.

That same surveillance footage does not reveal any water being spilled on the floor between Protz’s walkthrough and Doudeau’s fall.

These facts, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, support a reasonable inference that Target had constructive knowledge that rainwater could create a slippery floor in the area where Doudeau fell and that the water could have been on the floor long enough for Target discover it.

The appeals court reversed the trial court and let the case proceed to trial.  However, the jury returned a defense verdict for Target in October 2014.

The appeals decision prior to the trial is Doudeau v. Target Corporation, Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit 2014.

Case: In Berard v. Target Corporation, Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit 2014, Tammy Berard sued Target Corporation.

While shopping at one of Target’s stores, Berard slipped on a liquid substance on the floor. Although Berard did not fall, she suffered personal injuries as a result of the incident.

Berard did not argue — and nothing evidenced — either that Target caused the spill or had actual knowledge of the spill. Thus, to establish Target’s liability under the statute, Berard needed to show that Target had constructive knowledge of the spill.

Berard testified that:

  • The liquid substance on the floor appeared to be water.
  • The liquid was “clean,” “clear,” and not “dirty.”
  • The area around the spill was “clean and dry”
  • Although the spill was in a high traffic area of the store, Berard saw no footprints, cart tracks, or other marks through the spill.

Both Berard’s daughter-in-law (who was with Berard at the time of the incident) and Target’s store manager described the spill as appearing to be fresh.

The appeals court said that viewing this evidence in the light most favorable to Berard, she has not shown that the spill existed for such a length of time that Target should have known about it.

The court said that Berard’s argument that Target should be held liable under a theory of negligent mode of operation does not apply foreclosed by her testimony that she was a regular shopper at Target’s store, that the store always appeared to be clean and well-maintained, and that Target had done nothing wrong to contribute to the incident.

If the injured person’s testimony that the facility was “always clean”, you cannot win on theory of negligent operation . Berard provided no evidence that her injuries resulted from a mode of operation employed negligently by Target.

*The court said that the negligent mode of operation theory merely recognizes the common-sense proposition of negligence law that the duty of care required under the circumstances may consist of taking reasonable precautions so as to minimize or eliminate the likelihood of a dangerous condition arising in the first instance.

My thoughts: This case implies that Target may be liable under a theory of negligent mode of operation in certain cases.

$230,801.92 Verdict against Target when male shopper allegedly slipped and fell on laundry detergent in a Target store in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The shopper claimed that Target should have posted warnings and cleaned up the spill before the fall occurred. The case is Rodney Sapp v. Target.

My thoughts: The verdict was in 2011, which is after the new slip and fall law passed in Florida, but I am not sure which law was applied because the fall happened in 2008.

The current law requires the shopper/customer to prove that the store (Target) knew or should have known the liquid detergent (or any substance) was on the floor before the shopper fell.

I do not know what the injuries are in this case so I do not know whether the verdict for pain and suffering was similar to the typical settlement values for pain and suffering for injuries caused by someone else in Florida. As seen from this case, you may have a case against Target if you slip and fall on liquid on its floors.

Actual Case (not mine): $60,000 verdict for pain and suffering for a shopper who fractured her ankle.  She claimed that she slipped on a worn out and wet carpet at Target in Miami, Florida.

She argued that Target should have fixed the carpet (a dangerous condition) before her fall.

Target blamed her for not paying attention where she was walking. Her husband made a claim for loss of consortium but the jury did not award him any money. The verdict was in 2010.  The case is Hernandez v. Target.

My thoughts: Though I am not 100% certain, I think the entire verdict was for pain and suffering. If so, this verdict is within the range that I use as a starting point for settlement purposes for pain and suffering for an ankle fracture from an accident in Florida caused by someone else. Many juries award give little, if anything, for a loss of consortium claim if the spouse’s injury is not horrible.

$10,000 verdict for pain and suffering for a 75 year old shopper in Target in Miami-Dade County, Florida who fell down. She broke 2 teeth, tore a shoulder (rotator cuff) and had wrist pain. $5,000 was for past pain and suffering and $5,000 was for future pain and suffering.

My thoughts: The jury awarded her $500 a year for her future pain and suffering. I arrived at this amount by using the life tables, which show her life expectancy to be 10 more years. $5,000 divided by 10 is $500 per year.  This verdict for pain and suffering is way below the average settlement for pain and suffering for a torn rotator cuff (shoulder).

Actual Case (not mine):  In Gordon v. Target Corp., 07-80412-CIV, 2008 WL 2557509 (S.D. Fla. June 23, 2008), the district (trial) court granted summary judgment for Target.  This means that the customer’s case was dismissed before trial.

Even though this case is from 2008, it is still important.  It was cited in Garcia v. Wal-Mart Stores, East, LP, Dist. Court, MD Florida 2015.  (Learn more about slip and fall claims against a Florida Walmart).

Tip: The Gordon court opinion is only available on Westlaw or through the court record.  Westlaw is a legal research service with a monthly fee.

One of the 11 advantages of hiring a lawyer is that he or she may have access to this paid service.

This case arises out of a slip and fall which occurred on August 23, 2006 at a Target store located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.  The customer and her spouse filed their lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Palm Beach County, Florida claiming negligence and loss of consortium.

Tip:  In a personal injury case against Target, a customer’s spouse can sue for loss of consortium.

A spouse’s loss of consortium claim is made to recover money which the greater weight of the evidence shows will fairly and adequately compensate (spouse) for any loss by reason of his wife’s or her husband’s injury, of his/her services, comfort, society and attentions in the past (and in the future) caused by the incident.  Florida Supreme Court Civil Jury Instruction 2010 501.2  Personal Injury Damages: Elements.

The customer’s attorney was from Stuart, Florida. Target was defended by Peterson Bernard, located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Target removed this action to federal court and moved for summary judgment.  Moving for summary judgment means that Target asked the court to dismiss the case.

Faith Gordon’s (“Gordon” or “Customer”) answers to interrogatories (questions) and deposition testimony present a theory that the floor itself created a slick condition which caused the fall.  A deposition is witness’s sworn out-of-court testimony. It used to gather information as part of the discovery process and may be used at trial.

Target Corporation (“Target”) moved for entry of summary judgment in its favor arguing that there is no evidence of any transitory or foreign substance on the aisle floor, or proof of any negligent maintenance, which would have caused or contributed to the Plaintiff’s fall.

Undisputed Facts

Gordon was shopping at Target on August 23, 2006.  When she went to check out, the price of the storage boxes she wished to purchase did not come up on the register.  As a result, Gordon went to check the price of the item on the shelf.

While on her way to do so, she slipped and fell in an aisle.  Gordon was transported by ambulance to the hospital.

Tip: Taking an ambulance to the hospital increases the full value of a personal injury case.  Learn what the full value of a personal injury case for settlement purposes.

Gordon suffered a concussion and broke her right elbow and three bones in her left foot.  Gordon was wearing two-inch Onyx wedge sandals at the time of her fall.

Tip:  Wearing two-inch wedge sandals may make a customer’s slip and fall injury case tougher.  It may result in a lower settlement offer from Target or another store.

Regarding what caused the fall, on July 30, 2007, Target sent Gordon an interrogatory (written question), which asked her to describe in detail how the incident happened, including all actions taken by her to prevent the accident.

This is a standard question that is asked in any Florida personal injury lawsuit.  The injured person must answer it if it is asked.

Gordon’s answer was:

“On the date of the accident I was trying to purchase storage boxes at Target. The person at the register did not know what the price of the storage boxes was, so I was walking back to find out the price.

I was walking from a carpeted area to a hard-surfaced area and with my first step on the hard surfaced area, my foot (shoe) slipped and I fell forward. I landed on top of my right arm/elbow and my face and head slammed the hard surfaced floor. There was nothing I could have done to prevent this from happening.”

Target also sent her an interrogatory that asked her to describe in detail each act or omission on the part of any party to the lawsuit that Plaintiff contends constituted negligence that was a contributing legal cause of the incident.

She responded:

“My attorney is still investigating what Target did wrong. I know when I first stepped on to the hard surfaced floor it was so slick that I had no traction so I fell and was badly injured. Target caused or allowed the carpet or floor to be dangerous.”

Target sent her an interrogatory that asked her to describe with specificity every object or obstruction on which Plaintiff fell or tripped or struck following the alleged fall or trip, she said:

“I do not know what was on the floor; I do know it was slick and there was no traction with my first step on the hard surfaced floor.”

Target took her deposition.  She stated the following:

Q: Was there anything on the floor that caused you to fall?

A: I have no idea.

Q: Did you see a hangar, debris, paper, anything like that?

A: I don’t remember.

Q: Did you see any water on the floor?

A: I don’t remember.

Q: Did you see any liquid of any sort on the floor?

A: I don’t remember.

Q: Do you know what caused you to fall?

A: I have no idea.

Faith Gordon’s submitted an affidavit that opposed Target’s motion for summary judgment.  This is done to prevent a case from getting dismissed.

In her affidavit, she said:

“On the date of the accident at the Target store, my first step from the carpet to the tile caused me to slip and fall. My first step from the carpet to the tile was with my left foot and when my left foot was planted on the tile I had no traction.

The spot I hit was like ice. At the time I smelled something like a cleaning product. The cleaning product smelled like WD-40 or floor cleaner.1

I fell so hard I broke my right elbow; three bones in my left foot; suffered a huge right black eye; suffered a concussion and neck injury; and I still suffer from today, almost one and a half years later.

I was walking through the store, not running, and I would never have suffered the injuries I suffered unless the floor was super slick, causing me to fall with great force.”

Once she fell, several people arrived at the scene, including Target employees Stephanie Hardin and Paula Cavin, and emergency medical technician (“EMT”) Jose Santiago and paramedic Anthony Ferrer. Each of these individuals examined the floor and Gordon and observed nothing that could have contributed to Gordon’s fall.

Target Protection Specialist Paula Cavin testified as follows:

Q: When you heard her scream, how long did it take you to walk there?

A: A few seconds. I looked around the corner, I saw her laying there and I immediately went to that area, called the Code Green.

Q: When you got to the scene, did you look and check the floor to see if there was any reason or any problem with the floor that would have caused Ms. Gordon to fall?

A: Yes.

Q: It is important for you to do that?

A: Yes.

Q: And why is that?

A: Well, for one, it’s one of my core roles to do. There was-when we call a Code Green, team leaders in the store, they all come to the scene, the exec comes to the area, they don’t want anybody else tripping and falling.

I didn’t want the guests walking by tripping and falling, slipping and falling. I wanted to make sure the area was safe for the ambulance people, for our team members, for our guests.

Q: When you checked the floor, did you get down and check it with your hand?

A: Yes, I did.

Q: Did you check it with your shoes to see if there was a slippery area?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you find anything slippery?

A: No.

Q: Did you find anything at all that was out of the ordinary or a hazard that might have caused Ms. Gordon to fall?

A: No.

Executive Team Leader Stephanie Harden testified as follows:

Q: Okay. So you have the first step of preparing the report and gathering information from the scene?

A: Yes.

Q: Okay. And when you went to the scene in this case, was the floor clean and dry?

A: Yes.

Q: Okay. Did you find anything on the floor that would have caused Ms. Gordon to fall on August 23rd ?

A: No.

Q: Did you check her clothes to see if her clothes had picked up any moisture?  (Moisture on the injured person’s clothes is one of the 13 Important Ways to Show the Floor You Slipped on Was Wet.)

A: Yes.

Q: And were they dry?

A: They were dry.

Q: Did you see any hangers or any kind of article that would be foreign to the floor that shouldn’t be there that would have caused her to fall?

A: No.

Q: Did you get down and check the floor with your hand in the area of where her fall occurred?

A: Yes.

Q: And when you checked the floor with your hand, was the floor clear and dry?

A: Yes.

Q: Did it appear slippery to you in any fashion, the floor?

A: No.

Q: Had you been in that area within five or ten minutes of this accident happening?

A: Yes.

Q: And had you walked approximately the same area where Ms. Gordon had walked?

A: Yes.

Q: And did you have any trouble; was it slippery, was there anything unusual about the area when you traversed it about five minutes before Ms. Gordon’s accident?

A: No.

Jose Santiago, EMT, testified that:

Q: So if there were a hazard present when you arrived on the scene, is this where you would record it?

A: If there is anything around the patient or anything around that could be dangerous or cause any type of problem or hazard, yes, we’ll make sure we make note of it.

Q: Is there any type of hazard noted her on your report?

A: From what I could see, no.

Q: And then there is category, “Field Impressions.” And is that based-is that the input from your group, the Fire Rescue Paramedics?

A: This is our input as for the paramedics.

Q: And that’s your impression as to what happened and what you found, is that right?

A: Right.

Q: And what is recorded there, please?

A: Under the field impression i[t] says, “stumbled and fall, bumping forehead, causing an abrasion to the right eye and pain to the left arm.”

Anthony Ferrer, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue paramedic, also testified that he observed no hazards of any sort when he arrived at the scene where Gordon was.

Discussion

To a support a negligence lawsuit, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish that: (1) the defendant owed a duty of reasonable care to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition; (2) the defendant breached that duty; and (3) the defendant’s breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and resulting damages.  Lake Parker Mall, Inc. v. Carson, 327 So.2d 121, 123 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1976).  (Learn more about Florida mall injury cases).

To establish a breach, the plaintiff must show that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance, inspection, repair, warning, or mode of operation of the business premises. Id.; Spadafora v. Carlo, 569 So.2d 1329, 1330 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1990).

“Negligence may not be inferred from the mere happening of an accident alone.” Belden v. Lynch, 126 So.2d 578, 581 (Fla. Dist. Ct.App.1961); see also East Bay Raceway v. Parham, 497 So.2d 719, 720 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1986).  The mere fact that one slips and falls on a floor does not constitute evidence of negligence, nor does the fact that a floor was slick make the owner liable.

In Bucholtz v. City of Jacksonville, 72 So.2d 52, 53 (Fla.1954), the Florida Supreme Court rejected the claim of a woman who slipped and fell on steps where it was alleged the treads of the steps were permitted to be “worn slick and smooth”. The court noted that the owner of property which contains areas that become smooth are not obligated to “destroy the smoothness” of such areas.

The court further described the case as “a good illustration of the thought that every time someone is injured, someone else should pay for the injury.” Id. See also Williams v. Holland, 205 So.2d 682, 683 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1968).

In the Gordon case, the undisputed facts are that Gordon fell and was injured in a Target store.  Gordon has no idea what caused her to fall, except that the floor was “super slick.”

Beyond this fact there is no testimonial or direct evidence either as to the condition of the floor or the cause of the fall. Four people arrived at the scene shortly after the fall and no one saw anything that could account for the fall.

The court said that in order to arrive at a conclusion that Target was responsible in damages for the ultimate injury, the jury would have to infer in the first place that under all of the circumstances there was negligence on the part of Target in the maintenance of its floor.

Based on the evidence in this case, Target has met its burden by identifying depositions and answers to interrogatories, together with the affidavit, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. By making this initial showing, the burden shifts to Gordon to point to other portions of the record that would show that there was indeed a genuine issue of fact regarding the causation issue.

It is not necessary that Gordon identify with any specificity the nature of the substance or condition of the floor that caused her to fall. Williams v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 866 So.2d 122, 123 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.2004). Thus, even though Gordon cannot say what caused her to fall, “she should not be denied her day in court unless it is conclusively proven that there was no substance on the floor that was the proximate cause of her injuries.” Id.

However, in Williams v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., the court found that absent claims by the patron as to the substance on which she allegedly slipped, the store was not liable for injuries suffered by the patron in light of evidence that, immediately  following the fall, the store’s safety coordinator examined the area for the presence of any foreign substance on the floor or on plaintiff’s clothing and did not find anything, and there was no evidence that any other person observed any foreign substance or debris on floor. Williams v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 866 So.2d 122 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.2004).

In Gordon, the court that this is not a case where Gordon has simply failed to demonstrate what substance was on the floor that caused her to fall. Rather, this is a case where Gordon has failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact that there was any substance or item in the floor that caused her to fall or that Target failed to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the premises.

Target’s evidence established that immediately following Plaintiff’s fall, an inspection was made by at least four people, who examined the area for the presence of any transitory foreign substance or debris. All inspections were did not find anything.

The claimant had no idea what caused her to fall and there is no evidence of any other person, employee, or customer who made such an observation. It appears that her case is grounded in no more than a guess or speculation, not founded on observable facts or reasonable inferences.

Her description of the accident contains no allegation of any positive act or omission on the part of Target.  The Court said that it is mindful to draw inferences from the evidence in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff and resolve all reasonable doubts in Gordon’s favor.

However, only one inference reasonably can be drawn from the evidence in this case, and that is that Gordon’s fall was not due to Target’s failure to maintain its floor in a reasonably safe condition. This inference leads to the unavoidable conclusion that Plaintiff cannot prove her claim of negligence as a matter of law. Fiedler, 971 So.2d at 258.

The victim’s affidavit, made after she answered Target’s interrogatories and after she completed her deposition, mentions for the very first time that she “smelled something like a cleaning product … like WD-40 or floor cleaner” when she fell. Raising this issue for the first time constitutes an impermissible attempt to change her testimony in an effort to avoid summary judgment.

If Gordon had forgotten in her answers to interrogatories the “fact” that she had smelled a cleaning product when she fell, she had enough opportunity to amend her answers and provide this information to Target when she testified at her deposition.

She did not. Moreover, she now reveals this significant “fact” without any explanation of why she failed to reveal this “fact” before filing her affidavit in opposition to summary judgment.

The court said that even if the Court considered her affidavit and the fact that she smelled something like WD-40 or a cleaning product when she fell, such testimony does not logically lead to the conclusion that what she smelled was on the floor, caused her to fall and was a result of Target’s negligence.

In order to arrive at a conclusion that Target was responsible for Gordon’s injury, the jury would have to infer from the fact that Gordon smelled a substance that the substance was actually present; then they would have to infer that the substance caused Gordon to fall; then they would have to infer that the presence of the substance was a result of Target’s failure to use or exercise reasonable care in maintaining the premises.

The Court concluded that such a conclusion could only be reached by impermissibly piling inferences upon inferences.  “The right to recover in a slip and fall case requires more than a showing simply that the surface upon which the injured fell was slick, smooth or wet.” See Williams v. Holland, 205 So.2d 682, 683 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1968).

Before there can be recovery for a slip and fall injury, the allegations must show some negligence on the part of the defendant. Bucholtz v. City of Jacksonville, 72 So.2d 52 (Fla.1954); Commercial Credit Corporation v. Varn, 108 So.2d 638, 639-40 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.1959).

Target met its initial burden of establishing that there was no substance on the floor that was the proximate cause of Plaintiff’s injuries and that it did not fail to use reasonable care. Williams v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 866 So.2d at 123; see also Kirk v. TJ Palm Beach Associates Limited Partnership, 976 So.2d 694 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.2008).

Having met its burden, the burden then shifted to Gordon to show that there is indeed a genuine issue of fact regarding Target’s alleged negligence. Gordon did not meet this burden.

Where the cause of the fall, as in this case, is mere speculation, guess, or conjecture, there is not even a trace of evidence to create a material issue of fact for jury determination. Therefore, the court granted Target’s motion for summary judgement.

The lady lost the case and received nothing.  The court that decided this case was in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Footnotes

This is the first time Gordon mentions smelling a cleaning product. This assertion is contradicted by her answer to interrogatory number 13, wherein she said, “I do not know what was on the floor.” It is also contradicted by her deposition testimony, wherein she stated that she “had no idea” what caused her to fall.

Florida Injury Cases Involving Target’s Competitors

I have already talked about some of Target’s competitor.  Learn about Florida slip and fall injury claims with some of Target’s other competitors such as:

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I will not become your attorney by you leaving a comment. There is a time limit to file a lawsuit. All comments are posted anonymously but will be public. I only represent people who were hurt in Florida or on a cruise ship; or if the injured person lives in Florida or a family member (in the case of a death) lives in Florida. This is because I am only licensed in Florida.

Comments

    • Justin Ziegler says

      AF:

      If the fall happened in a Florida Target and you feel that their carelessness caused or may have caused the fall, please call us at 305-661-9977 or 888-594-3577.

      There is a time limit to sue. This is not legal advice. I am not your lawyer. Your response to this comment will be public.

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