Premises liability – a business owner’s legal liability for accidents that happen on the business’s property – often turns on the issue of notice. In Peer v. Home Depot USA, the District Court for the Southern District of Florida explained some of the ways in which a person can show that a business knew or should have known about the existence of a dangerous condition on its property.
Patrick Peer was injured when he slipped and fell at a loading area in a Port St. Lucie area Home Depot. Peer, who was accompanied by his brother, Nico Peer, and his nephew, Austin Peer, had pulled his truck into the loading area after a Home Depot worker removed yellow cones barricading the spot and waived him in. He slipped as his foot hit the ground when he got out of the truck. According to Nico and Austin Peer, they noticed a “slimy substance” on the ground near Peer when they went to help him.
Peer sued the company for negligence, alleging that he incurred serious neck and back injuries as a result of the fall, which required multiple surgeries. In response, Home Depot filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the Court to rule in its favor because the company was not aware that the floor was in a dangerous condition before the accident happened.
In order to recover against a business establishment for injuries sustained in a accident on its property, a person must prove that the establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition. Actual notice, is the entity’s specific knowledge that the dangerous condition existed before the accident, while constructive notice is based on the idea that a business “should know” about certain dangerous conditions, perhaps because the condition lasted for a sufficient amount of time without being remedied or because the condition occurs regularly.
In this case, the Court found that Peer could not establish Home Depot’s constructive knowledge that the floor on which he slipped was in a dangerous – slick – condition. ” Peer has presented no evidence to establish how long the dangerous condition was present,” the Court noted, adding “[i]ndeed, Plaintiff even acknowledges that he doesn’t know how long the substance was on the ground.” Furthermore, there also was no evidence showing that the floor frequently became dangerously slick or that similar accidents had occurred in the past.
Nevertheless, the Court found that an issue remained as to whether the company had actual notice of the slick floor. The Peers testified in depositions that the area was blocked off and that a Home Depot employee moved cones and waived them in prior to the accident. “The fact that the area was originally blocked off could lead a reasonable jury to conclude that Home Depot had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition.” according to the Court.
If you were recently injured in an accident and are interested in pursuing a claim against the property owner of the premises where you were injured, call the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine today. Anidjar & Levine’s personal injury attorneys represent clients throughout South Florida, including in Hialeah, Coral Springs, Pompano Beach and Hollywood. The attorneys are happy to discuss your potential claim in a free initial consultation. You can reach the firm’s Ft. Lauderdale offices at 800-747-3733 or fill out an on-line “Contact Us” form.
Related blog posts: