A great way for me to explain the law for slip and fall claims against Florida Chick-fil-A and other restaurants is to give an example of recent case.
The case is Glaze v. Worley, 157 So. 3d 552, 553-54 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015). This is not my case, however, I have settled Florida slip and fall restaurant claims.
This article also applies to all Florida restaurant slip and fall accident claims.
In this case, Deborah Glaze, as parent of James Glaze, a minor child sued Kathy Worley, DBA Chick-Fil-A of Cordova Mall, and Simon Property Group, LP., DB.
Tip: This Chick-fil-A seems to be a franchise, because they were sued as “Kathy Worley” doing business as “Chick-fil-A of Cordova Mall.” Most Chick-fil-A franchises likely have commercial general liability (CGL) insurance without a self-insured retention (SIR).
Fact: Simon Property Group is one of the, if not the, largest Florida shopping mall owners. (Learn about injury claims against Florida malls).
The lawsuit was filed in a county that is within the First District Court of Appeals (1rst DCA) of Florida’s territory.
(The thirty-two counties in the 1rst DCA are: 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.)
The 1rst DCA which is located in Tallahassee, Florida. The appeals decision in this case was filed on March 3, 2015.
The plaintiff (mother of the injured child) used a Pensacola lawyer, as did Chick-Fil-A.
The trial court entered summary judgment against her in her negligence lawsuit against Kathy Worley, DBA Chick-fil-A of Cordova Mall (Chick-fil-A). Summary judgment, in this case, means that the trial court dismissed her case.
However, the appeals court determined that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because the affidavit filed in opposition to the motion for summary judgment and the depositions in the court file give rise to a reasonable inference that the source of the water came from an area exclusively within the control of employees of Chick-fil-A, and therefore resulted from active negligence on the part of Chick-fil-A.
Factual and Procedural History
In the lawsuit, she claimed that on March 26, 2005, while walking to the restroom through a common area adjoining Chick-fil-A’s restaurant, her minor son James slipped and fell on a foreign substance (water) on the floor.
His sister, Raven, was present at the time of the fall. Deborah claimed that Chick-fil-A:
1. negligently maintained the floor by allowing the foreign substance to remain on the floor presenting a hazardous condition, and
2. Chick-fil-A had a duty to maintain its restaurant and common area in a safe condition.
She claimed that Chick-fil-A knew or should have known of the hazardous condition, because the foreign substance’s presence was foreseeable, and the condition existed for a sufficient length of time. She claimed that the mall owner, Simon Property Group, was negligent in allowing the hazardous condition.
In its answer and affirmative defenses, Chick-fil-A denied a duty to maintain the common area and any negligence. James and Raven both described the incident.
They walked to the restroom down the hall because Raven was sick. Neither noticed any water on the floor when they walked past the Chick-fil-A service door.
Tip: The full settlement value of a slip and fall case is often reduced because the claimant saw the substance on the floor before the fall. This is because a person who is walking has a duty to use reasonable care while walking.
In this case, the full settlement value would not be reduced for this factor because the injured person testified that they did not see water on the floor before the fall.
After ten to fifteen minutes, they began to walk back. James was in front of Raven, looking behind him to talk to her.
Tip: If you are looking behind you when you are walking, the liability insurer will generally reduce the full value of your claim for your comparative fault. This is because a person who is walking has a duty to use reasonable care while walking.
However, less fault, if any, is assigned to a minor if they are six years old or below. Some fault may be assigned to a parent for negligent supervision. A parent’s fault reduces the full value of the child’s case.
Raven saw a man in a wheelchair approach and told James to step out of the way. He stepped to the left, and his feet went out beneath him.
He ended up falling hard on his hip and striking his head in the Chick-fil-A door jamb. Neither saw the puddle before James fell. They described the puddle as being about the size of six pieces of paper laid out two by three.
Raven described the water as “coming out of the doorway into the hallway and it was coming out of the door.” James described it as “the door, the water was coming out the door. . . .
[Q. So it was just flowing out underneath?] That’s how it looked. I don’t know if it was still flowing, but it was just a puddle of water right there.”
What the children described was a large puddle originating from a private service area, not a few passing drops of water or spilled drink in a public area.
Deborah said that just by examining it, you could tell it came from under the door. Chick-fil-A did not present any evidence or contrary affidavit to defeat the inference that the water originated from Chick-fil-A’s side of the service door, an area not open to the public and under its command and control.
Applicable Florida Law Concerning Slip and Fall
The current Florida slip and fall statute is 768.0755.
The court then talked about its two recent cases dealing with the responsibility of business entities when a patron has slipped and fallen.
In Feris v. Club Country of Fort Walton Beach, Inc., 138 So. 3d 531 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014), the court held the denial of summary judgment was correct even though there was no specific evidence of how long the liquid had been on the floor where there was “active negligence” by the employees of the premises in failing to enforce the rule against allowing drinks on the dance floor.
(Coming soon: Learn about slip and fall claims against Florida bars and clubs).
This means that the court allowed the case to continue towards trial.
In Walker v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 39 Fla. L. Weekly D1750 (Fla. 1st DCA Aug. 20, 2014), this court affirmed (agreed with) a summary judgment on behalf of Winn-Dixie, where there was no evidence of how long the dangerous condition existed before the fall.
There was also no evidence that the condition occurred with regularity.
The Walker court distinguished Feris because in Feris, there was “‘active’ negligence by the employees of the premises,” but in Walker, there was no “evidence of active negligence by Winn-Dixie employees.” Walker, 39 Fla. L. Weekly at D1751. (Learn about
The Feris court stated that because of the alleged active negligence “in failing to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance, inspection, repair, warning or mode of operation of the business premises,” potential liability would exist even under the current law. Feris, 138 So. 3d at 53.
Without showing that the business had actual or constructive knowledge of the transitory foreign substance, you are unable to successfully sue, no matter how persuasive or compelling the evidence the plaintiff had in support of the claim.
Slip and fall claimants who sue need to show that the owner had knowledge of the spill. See Am. Optical, 73 So. 3d at 133. The “active” negligence in causing the condition which led to the slip and fall, is the crucial distinction between the court’s decisions in Feris, 138 So. 3d 531, and Walker, 39 Fla. L. Weekly D1750.
The court said that since allegations of such active negligence exist in this case, there is no indication that anyone other than Chick-fil-A’s employees are allowed on the other side of the service door, it can reasonably be inferred that there was a lack of reasonable care (negligence) on the part of Chick-fil-A in either the maintenance of the premises or in the mode of operation of the business which allowed the water to flow into the common area.
Under such circumstances, summary judgment is inappropriate. See Feris, 138 So. 3d at 534. The court let this case continue to trial.
My Final Thoughts
This case would be a good case for injured slip and fall victims except for the court’s footnote that says that it specifically declines to address whether the granting of summary judgment would have been appropriate under the new statutory section, section 768.0755.
In my opinion, this case (unfortunately) does not help us understand how Florida’s new slip and fall statute applies to cases.
In Feris, the court said that active negligence should prevent a defendant winning on summary judgment, but this case does not seem as convincing, if at all.
 Simon Property Group settled out of the case prior to the trial court’s hearing on the motion for summary judgment.
Warning! If you settle with a mall owner, and continue your case against a restaurant, be sure to draft a settlement release so that you preserve your personal injury claim against the restaurant. Otherwise, you will lose your right to sue.
 One the issues with this case is that since the court applied the prior Florida slip and fall statute since the accident happened before the new statute, it said that “We specifically decline to address whether the granting of summary judgment would have been appropriate under the new statutory section, section 768.0755, Florida Statutes (2010).”
This seems to imply that this case may have been dismissed under the new statute.
768.0755 Premises liability for transitory foreign substances in a business establishment.—
(1) 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.
§ 768.0755, Fla. Stat. (2010).
Did a Chick-fil-A’s carelessness cause you to slip, fall and suffer an injury in Florida? Were you hurt in another type of accident and/or somewhere else?
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