If you slipped and fell on a substance or debris on the floor of a store or other business establishment in Florida, then you may be able to sue for your damages.
This article does not apply if you only have a workers compensation claim. It does apply if you are hurt while working and you also have a personal injury claim.
Most of this article only applies if you were an invitee on the premises, so you should know who is considered an invitee in Florida.
This article focuses on a slip and fall on a substance or debris, and does not really focus on a slip and fall on a fixed condition, such as a dangerous curb or step down without a warning.
When I use the word “sue” I am referring to having the ability to make a valid claim or lawsuit to get damages.
What Can You Get Compensation for If You Slip and Fall in a Store?
In a Florida slip and fall case, you may be able to get compensation for:
- non-economic damages (e.g. pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.); and
- economic damages (e.g. medical bills, lost wages, property damage such as broken glasses, etc.).
There is no cap on damages in a slip and fall case against a private owner or operator of a business in Florida. A business establishment could be a hotel, mall, supermarket, store or many other places.
I am going to assume that you slipped and fell while you were an invitee.
There are over 86 factors that may affect the value of a personal injury case. In a Florida slip and fall case a big issue will be whether the owner or operator of the business had notice of the hazard caused by the substance or debris.
Tip: A Florida slip and fall case is based on negligence so the time limits to sue in Florida for a case based on negligence apply.
Both Owner and Operator of Store Must Make It Safe
Both the owner and operator in Florida have a duty to make sure that the premises is safe. If the owner of the business subcontracted the cleaning of the floors to a maintenance company, both are on the hook if you can show constructive knowledge.
My law firm gets a lot of calls from people who slip and fall at a business, and they want to know if they have a case. Some people think that just because they slip and fall at a business, the business is automatically responsible. This is far from true.
Example: Fall on oil at a gas station
Mike slip and falls on oil at a gas station when he is getting gas. He fractures his wrist while bracing himself when striking the ground.
The owner or operator of the gas station is not automatically responsible for Mike’s damages (e.g. pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, medical bills, lost wages, etc.) just because Mike was injured on their property.
Mike will need to prove that the oil on the floor was dangerous.
He Must Show That The Gas Station Operator Had Notice of the Oil Before the Fall
He must also prove that gas station owner or operator knew or should have known that the oil was on the floor before Mike fell. Mike will also have to prove that the slipping on the oil caused the wrist fracture.
Now, it may be possible for Mike to prove the gas station knew or should have known that the oil was on the floor before Mike fell (I will discuss this below).
But the point I am trying to make is that just because Mike slipped and fell at the gas station does not make the gas station automatically responsible.
Tip: Businesses usually have commercial general liability (CGL) insurance. A CGL policy may have medical payments (“Medpay”) coverage, which may pay for some of your medical bills if you were an invitee on the property.
There is a Time Limit to Make Your MedPay Claim
You need to submit your medical bills to the insurer within the applicable time allowed by the policy.
The nice thing about Medpay coverage is that you do not need to prove owner or operator knew or should have known that a dangerous condition caused your injuries in order to qualify for medical payments coverage.
Warning! The time to submit bills under the medical payments coverage is usually 1 year but it depends on the particular policy.
What Law Applies to a Slip and Fall at a Store in Florida?
“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. Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that:
(a) 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; or
(b) The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
(2) This section does not affect any common-law duty of care owed by a person or entity in possession or control of a business premises.”
Tip: Florida Statute 768.0755 does not apply if someone slips and falls on a substance that is not a transitory foreign substance. Fla. Stat. § 768.0755 also does not apply if a person slips and falls on a substance at a non-business establishment such as someone else’s home.
Injured Person Must Prove the Store Had Notice of The Hazard Before the Fall
The big thing to know about this law is that an injured person must prove actual or constructive knowledge in a slip and fall at a business establishment.
One of the first things that the insurance company or adjuster for a business establishment (often a store) will do after they receive notice that someone was injured at the premises is call you and ask for you to give a statement (either recorded or informal).
Warning! If you fail to tell the adjuster facts that constitute actual or constructive knowledge on this phone call, your case may have already lost value even if the adjuster is as sweet as apple pie to you.
Slip and Fall Insurance Adjusters Are Experienced; Be Careful
Most liability adjusters have at least 85 cases, and sometimes up to 200, at one time. Many of these claims are slip and fall cases. Many adjusters have been in the business for 30 or more years.
They are pros. Most likely you are not. Speaking to them is like playing Lebron James in basketball. You aren’t likely to score a point.
The adjuster is taking notes when you speak. These notes become of a permanent part of the claim file.
In a serious injury case, don’t speak to the claims adjuster. Injured people often hire us after they have given an informal or recorded statement to an adjuster. I often cringe when I get a copy of the transcribed recorded statement from the adjuster.
Giving a Statement Can Decrease the Value of Your Case
If an injured person gives a recorded statement to an adjuster, it generally makes the case harder to prove.
If the case requires a lawsuit, the defense attorney has a chance to take your deposition (recorded testimony) and it can hurt your credibility if both the testimony and the statement don’t match up.
The time period that a substance is on the floor, before the fall, that is necessary to show constructive notice will depend on the facts of the case.
There is no blanket rule. Higher trafficked areas should be inspected more frequently than lower trafficked areas.
So the owner or operator of a busy shopping center such as Dadeland mall (in Miami) should be inspecting the floors more frequently than the owner or operator of an apartment complex with only 4 units. A cruise ship should be inspecting its highly trafficked floors very frequently.
Busier Businesses Should Be Inspecting Floors More Often
The owner or operator of a large hotel, such as a Marriott with 500 rooms, should be inspecting the hotel more frequently than an apartment complex with only 4 units.
Below are some Florida cases that discuss the time limits which may show constructive notice.
Constructive knowledge may be established by showing that the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that in the exercise of reasonable care, the condition would have been known to the business establishment.
In addition to the Florida Supreme Court, the injured person is governed by the district court of appeal (DCA) that presides over the county where he or she fell.
Below is a map of the different Florida DCAs.
I have broken some cases down by the DCA that presides over the county where the fall happened.
3rd DCA – Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, which consists of cities including, but not limited to, Miami, Hialeah, Miami Beach, South Beach, Kendall, Pinecrest, Marathon, Tavernier, Key West).
People injured in the above counties are subject to the 3rd DCA court opinions. But again, the time limit that may be enough to show constructive notice is dependent on the particular facts of the case.
The time limits below are not black and white rules, but they help in understanding the law.
Ice Cream Shopper Was Thawed, Dirty and Splattered; Case Goes to Trial
In Camina v. Parliament Ins. Co., 417 So.2d 1093 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982), Mary slipped and fell on thawed ice cream. She fell at the entranceway to the store.
She didn’t know how long the ice cream was on the floor before she fell. There was evidence that the ice cream was thawed, dirty and splattered.
A jury could believe that Mary’s slip and fall had created the condition. However, a jury could also believe that the ice cream was thawed, dirty and splattered before her fall.
The judges refused to dismiss this case.
15 Minutes May Be Enough to Show Constructive Notice
The shortest time limit of which I am aware that may be enough to show constructive notice in the 3rd District (Dade and Monroe County) is 15-20 minutes. Winn Dixie v. Williams, 264 So.2d 862 (Fla. 3d DCA 1972).
My thoughts: Winn Dixie is a busy supermarket so they should be inspecting the floors more frequently. Learn more about Florida Winn Dixie slip and fall settlements. Read more about slip and fall cases against Florida supermarkets.
In the case of Gaidymowicz v. Winn Dixie, 371 So.2d 212 (Fla. 3d DCA 1979), 1 minute was not enough to show constructive notice. Evidence showed that the store manager had been down the aisle only five minutes before the customer’s fall, finding nothing. The court held that this was not a sufficient time to correct the dangerous condition.
In the case Zimmerman v. Eckerd Corp., 839 So.2d 835 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003), 5-10 minutes was not enough to show constructive notice. In that case, the store employees said that they inspected (the area where the person fell) every 5-10 minutes and the injured person did not have any evidence to refute this.
Eckerd is now CVS. Learn more about CVS slip and fall settlements.
I represented a client in a slip and fall case against a supermarket in Miami where they only gave me about 8 minutes or so of grainy video before my client’s fall before I decided to sue them.
You can see the start of the video.
It was nice that they gave me any video at all. It wasn’t nice that they denied liability and offered nothing before I sued them.
After I sued them, they sent me about 35 minutes of post fall video. I argued that the video showed that the floor was dirty for the 9 minutes before the fall.
Now while there is not a case in the 3rd district that says that 9 minutes may be enough to show constructive notice, perhaps it is enough.
Store Had Inspection Logs Saying Store Was Inspected Every 15 Minutes
Even though the store produced signed logs stating that they inspected the floor every 15 minutes on the day of the incident, I argued that the video after the fall did not show any employees inspecting the area as stated on the store’s floor cleaning logs.
This settlement was before deduction for attorney’s fees and expenses. Most cases result in a lower recovery. It should not be assumed that your case will have as beneficial a result.
4th DCA (Palm Beach, Broward, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties.)
5 minutes was enough to show constructive notice. Substance shopper perceived to be sauerkraut, had been there for at least five minutes.
Furthermore, the substance was black which could lead one to conclude that it had been stepped on before and thus had been there for longer than the five minutes the shopper could account for Ress v. X-Tra Super Food Centers, Inc., 616 So.2d 110 (Fla.App. 4 Dist., 1993).
19 minutes was enough to show constructive notice. Ferguson v. S. H. Kress & Co., 253 So.2d 472 (Fla. 4th DCA 1971)
15-20 minutes was enough to show constructive notice. Little v. Publix, 234 So2d 132 (Fla. 4th DCA 1970).
My thoughts: Publix is a busy supermarket so they should be inspecting the floors more frequently. We have settled cases with Publix Supermarket. Learn more about Publix slip and fall settlements in Florida.
The 5th DCA is composed of the Hernando, Lake, Marion, Citrus and Sumter Counties; including Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia Counties; including Orange and Osceola Counties; and including Brevard and Seminole Counties.
So for example, if you slip and fall at Disney World in Florida which is located in Orange County, then you are subject to 5th DCA.
One of the worst cases in Florida for injured people is the case of Hussain v. Winn Dixie, 765 So.2d 141 (Fla. 5th DCA 2000). It says that 15-20 minutes, or possibly close to 30 minutes, is not enough to show constructive notice.
My thoughts: Disney is located in Orange County, which is in the 5th DCA therefore this may possibly decrease the value of a case if you slip and fall on a substance at Disney and can only show that it had been on the floor for 15 to 20 minutes before you fell. But again, every case is fact specific so don’t give up on your case just because of this case.
5 minutes was not enough to show constructive notice. Winn Dixie v. Mazzie, 707 So.2d 927 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998)
A case that helps an injured person in the 5th DCA is the case of Sinfort v. Food Lion, 908 So.2d 521 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005), where a store employee signed an affidavit that she checked the area where the person fell 10-15 minutes before the fall and she didn’t see any liquid on the floor.
But fortunately for the injured person, the court did not grant summary judgment for the store (Food lion). This means that the judge was allowed the case to go the jury.
Generally speaking, when a judge allows a case to go the jury the settlement value increases because, at a minimum, the owner or occupier of the business has to pay an attorney to defend the case through trial.
No Constructive Notice Where Patron Fell on Substance at Bingo Hall
In Silver Springs Moose Lodge No. 1199 v. Orman, 631 So.2d 1119, 1121 (Fla. 5th DCA 1994), the court said that there was no constructive notice where was no evidence on how substance got onto floor in a Bingo Hall or how long it had been there before patron’s fall, and there were no smudges, streaks, tracks, or foot prints around liquid to show that it had been there for sufficient period for bingo hall to be charged with constructive notice.
There was no evidence no evidence of other slip and fall instances at the Moose Lodge, but further, there was no evidence that the water the patron slipped upon was in any way connected to the puddle that formed outside the Moose Lodge entrance.
Second District includes Pasco & Pinellas, Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier, Hendry, and Lee.
90 seconds was not enough to show constructive notice. Publix v. Heiser, 156 So.2d 540 (Fla. 2d DCA 1963).
15-20 minutes may show constructive notice. Jenkins v. Brackin, 171 So.2d 589 (Fla. 2d DCA 1965)
1st DCA: Counties include Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Calhoun, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Nassau, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Wakulla, Walton and Washington.
30 to 60 minutes may show constructive notice, and the time limit depends on the particular facts of the case, according to Brooks v. Phillip Watts Enterprises, 560 So.2d 339 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990).
4 minutes not enough. In Walker, the court said that 4 minutes was not enough to satisfy the statute’s requirement that the alleged dangerous condition must exist “for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition” before constructive knowledge of the condition can be imputed. Walker v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2014.
Find out more about the Walker v Winn Dixie case.
Time on floor can be proved by circumstantial evidence
The time that a substance has been on the floor before the fall can be established by circumstantial evidence.
I settled a slip and fall for $300,000 against a supermarket in Miami. Below is a picture of the floor taken shortly after my client’s fall (in my case described above) in a Miami supermarket.
You can see that the floor has, or possibly has, smudges, tracks, streaks and footprints. I argued to the supermarket that these characteristics established constructive notice.
I also had 9 minutes of video before the fall that I argued showed these substances on the floor.
If you can’t prove actual or constructive knowledge in a slip and fall case, you may be able to show that the particular method of operation used by the owner or occupier caused a substance to be placed on the floor and cause danger to invitees.
Articles about Slip and Fall injury claims against Different Florida stores
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