Slip and fall lawyers will often explain in the early going that these cases are not easy to handle. There are dozens of different ways that falls can happen.
Georgia law is based on the idea that if the property owner invites you onto his property, it should be safe. If there is a hazard on the property and you get hurt because of it, the question is whether the landlord knew about the hazard. Static defect cases are for injuries resulting from something permanent on the property like uneven pavement, a hidden dropoff in a parking lot, poor lighting. In static defect slip and fall cases, the property owner usually already knew about the problem and so the issue is whether the defect caused the fall and whether the shopper could have avoided the trouble.
In those cases, the defense will typically argue that there is a lack of evidence that the defect is what actually caused the fall or they will argue that the defect was open and obvious and if the shopper was paying attention, they would not have been hurt. One serious obstacle to making a fair recovery for a fall arises where the shopper has already walked through the area where the obstacle is before. The prior walk-through puts you on notice of the condition and when you know the same thing the landlord does, the law says it is unfair to sue the landowner for it.
Fluid slip and fall cases are different. By their nature, these are spills or leaks and they are temporary. There, much of the defense is focused on the argument that the store owner either did not know about the spill or did not have time to repair it. The important questions are 1) who caused the spill and 2) was the fluid there long enough for the store to notice and clean it up? We handled a slip and fall case against Kroger last year for a lady who slipped and fractured a bone in her spine because the seafood department decided to hose out the seafood container and the overspray wet the floor. Another example would be where the store employee was mopping the floor and failed to put out warning signs after they left. In those cases, the fluid was the direct result of a stupid decision by the store employees and those cases are more straightforward.
On the other hand, if you slip and fall in a grocery store on spilled milk or fruit, the case is for more difficult. Georgia courts recognize that it is fundamentally unfair to require a store owner to be on constant patrol to notice when customers or their children spill product. The rule in Georgia is that where the store can show they diligently examined the aisles on foot every 15-20 minutes, they can have the case thrown out. Video surveillance evidence is extremely important in those cases and it is smart to send a letter to the store owner immediately to require them to preserve the video in the days afterward because most systems overwrite the old video automatically.
Recent Slip and Fall Cases Handled by the Firm
We just finished a trip and fall case for a 70-year-old trucker who tripped on the drainage grate at a truck stop because passing trucks displace the grate every time they drove over it. We proved that there had been numerous prior complaints and that because of the shadow from the grate hole, there was no way for the trucker to have seen that the grate was not on center. He sustained a torn rotator cuff and had surgery. We were able to get the case settled for him for $87,500.00 without filing suit. Although the verdict would have been higher, the client was in financial distress and needed the matter closed out quickly.
We are handling a slip and fall case against Wal-Mart for a lady who tripped over the dried out an curled up edges of a mat at the front of the store. The mats tend to curl when they get old and are hard to see. We have eyewitnesses who complained to the store about the problem, in the weeks prior. Our client sustained a fractured shoulder and will require surgery.
We are handling a slip and fall case against Kroger for a lady who slipped in spilled milk and sustained a compound fracture to her humerus with a permanent impairment to her elbow that keeps her from being able to shampoo her hair, from writing legibly and from putting on her bra.