This article specifically talks about claims for herniated disc injuries from slip and falls at a Florida Publix. It also applies to slip and fall injury claims against other Florida supermarkets.
I have written other articles about herniated disc claims in Florida accidents, and slip and fall injury claims against Florida Publix Supermarkets. The cases in this article are not mine, though I have settled slip, trip and fall cases with Florida Publix Supermarkets.
March 2014 Defense Verdict (not my case): In Wright v. Publix Super Markets, A 40 year old shopper claimed that she slipped on a grimy and sticky liquid substance on a Publix supermarket floor. It happened in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
She sued Publix. She claimed that the fall caused a lumbar disc herniation, which required surgery. Lumbar refers to the lower back.
The shopper claimed that the substance was on the floor for a sufficient time before the fall. In Florida, you need to prove that Publix knew that a substance was on the floor for a sufficient time before your fall.
This is called constructive notice. Your other option is to show that Publix had actual notice of the substance on the floor before your fall.
She claimed Publix should have known about it, and cleaned it up before her fall.
The Publix manager said he inspected the accident scene immediately after the fall. He said that it was clean. He said he got on his hands and knees and did not see anything.
Fact: If a Publix manager or employee says that the floor that you slipped on was dry, this generally decreases the full value of your slip and fall case. This is because it makes it may make it more difficult for you to prove that Publix was negligent. A jury could believe the Publix manager.
However, if you have pictures of the substance then the employees’ testimony may carry little to no weight.
In this case, the customer said that the floor also had skid marks from her shoes.
Fact: If your testimony is that you saw skid marks on or around the substance on the floor, this generally helps your slip and fall case. This assumes that you are telling the truth. Skids marks may help you establish that Publix had constructive notice of the substance on the floor before the fall.
The injured shopper took pictures of the floor.
Tip: If you can, immediately take pictures of the substance on the floor after the fall. Also take pictures of the area from multiple angles. This will later help refresh your memory of how the accident occurred.
Pictures are objective evidence as opposed to biased testimony. It hurts your case if the pictures do not show a substance on the floor after the fall. However, if you are able to get Publix’s video, then this may show the substance. This can help your case.
Publix also argued that if the skid marks were from her shoes, she could not have slipped on a slippery substance. Publix argued that a skid marks only occur a dry floor.
There have been cases where Florida appeals courts have found that skid marks may show constructive notice. For example in the case of Woods v. Winn Dixie Stores, Inc., 621 So.2d 710, 711 (Fla. 3d DCA 1993), an unidentified substance was described as “very dirty,” “trampled,” “containing skid marks, scuff marks,” and “chewed up”.
The Miami-Dade County appeals court allowed this case to go to a jury. Learn more about Winn Dixie slip and fall injury claims in Florida.
You want to get your case to a jury, and avoid dismissal. If Publix knows that your case can get to a jury, they should offer settlement money.
The shopper was a civil administrative police employee.
Fact: Police officers or police personnel generally make good witnesses. They are generally well-respected.
Having a steady job may make you seem more credible to a jury and to Publix’s claims adjuster. Jurors and adjusters generally prefer awarding money to hard-working folks than to people who they perceive as trying to “play the system.”
Publix argued that:
- The customer had the proper training to document details.
- Given the customer’s job, the jury should place a lot of weight on the fact that a substance could not be seen on the pictures.
Tip: A photo generally holds more weight than the injured person’s testimony or a Publix employees’ testimony. The same is true for video of the accident scene.
The customer claimed that she suffered a lumbar herniation, which required surgery. She also claimed that she will have permanent symptoms.
Fact: If your symptoms are permanent, this usually increases the full settlement value of the case. This is because it increases the pain and suffering component. It may also increase future medical expenses and future lost wages.
The jury determined that Publix was not negligent. Thus, Publix won this case. The shopper received nothing.
2013 Verdict (not my case): In Dominguez v. Publix Super Markets, a jury awarded $70,000 for the pain and suffering component of damages from a fall at a Publix.
The fall happened in Miami-Dade County, Florida in 2008. An adult female claimed C4-C6 herniations after she slipped and fell.
This means that she had claimed that the accident caused two disc herniations, specifically C4-C5 and C5-C6.
Tip: If you have more than one disc herniation in your spine, the doctor that Publix hires may say that your disc ailments (injuries) pre-existed the accident. It may make it harder to prove that the fall caused your herniated discs.
She claimed that laundry detergent had spilled on the floor. She claimed that Publix failed to keep the sales floor reasonably safe.
She claimed that Publix failed to warn her of the dangerous condition.
She claimed that:
- Publix knew or should have known of the condition.
- The assistant store manager heard the detergent fall.
- The assistant store manager was cleaning the spill right before she came down the aisle and fell.
The jury found the injured shopper 75% at fault. The jury awarded:
The date of the accident was 2008.
Since she was 75% at fault, she is entitled to 25% of the total verdict. This means that the judgement is for approximately $58,500.
In a Florida slip and fall case, you can recover damages even if you are 51% or more at fault. This customer was over 51% at fault. Even so, she was still able to recover damages. However, damages are reduced proportionately to your comparative negligence.
My thoughts: It seems like the shopper had a good argument that Publix knew of the spill before her fall. It is often difficult to prove that Publix knew of a substance being on the floor before the shopper’s slip and fall.
My understanding is that the Publix assistant manager was cleaning the spill when the shopper came down the aisle. I assume that the jury felt that the patron was careless for not walking more carefully after seeing the assistant manager cleaning a spill.
Once you see a store employee cleaning a spill, you should be on a heightened lookout for substances on the floor. All things equal, the full settlement value of a slip and fall victim’s case will be reduced more if he or she saw an employee cleaning a spill before the fall.
This is usually results in a smaller case settlement value. This jury awarded a good amount of money for the pain and suffering damages for a herniated disc.
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