Federal Court in Tennessee Dismisses Plaintiff’s Claims Stemming from Her Slip-and-Fall in Defendant’s Store

shopping cartSlip and fall cases are very fact-specific, and a court’s ruling may depend on how those facts are presented. In a recent case involving a slip and fall, a Tennessee Federal Court dismissed a plaintiff’s case when she could not show that a store where she was shopping had notice that a liquid substance had spilled on the floor.

In Bradley v. Wal-Mart Stores, the plaintiff brought suit against a retailer for injuries she allegedly suffered as a result of a fall in the store. The plaintiff alleged she fell on a liquid substance that was present on the floor near the check-out lanes of the store. After the plaintiff fell, store employees observed the liquid and presumed that it was “chicken juice” that had spilled from another customer’s package of raw chicken.

After discovery was conducted, however, there existed no conclusive evidence of how the chicken juice ended up on the floor. Similarly, neither party could identify precisely how long the liquid had been present on the floor before the plaintiff fell. Since the plaintiff could not prove the source of the chicken juice, or how long it had been on the floor, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

The court noted that negligence cannot be automatically presumed because an accident has occurred. In Tennessee, a plaintiff claiming negligence must establish a duty of care owed, conduct amounting to breach of that duty, injury, and causation. In slip and fall cases such as the one at bar, breach may be proven by showing that a business owner had either actual or constructive notice that a dangerous condition existed prior to the injury. The plaintiff alleged that the store had constructive knowledge of the presence of the chicken juice, so she was required to prove that the dangerous condition existed for a length of time that the store should have become aware of it in the exercise of reasonable care. Constructive notice can also be shown by producing evidence of a pattern of conduct or recurring incidents.

The court noted that, even if it took the rest of the plaintiff’s allegations as true, there was no way to ascertain that the chicken juice had been present on the floor for a sufficient period of time to support a finding of constructive knowledge. The Court also observed that evidence in the record indicated that the store had a practice of regularly checking the condition of the floors in the building. As such, the court held that a jury could not conclude that the retailer was negligent and granted the Motion for Summary Judgment made by the defendant store. The plaintiff’s claims were dismissed.

As this case illustrates, it can be difficult to prove negligence under the standards set forth by Tennessee law in some cases. However, a skilled slip and fall lawyer can identify the most favorable facts to a plaintiff in order to present the best possible case to a judge or jury. If you or someone you love has suffered injures because of somebody else’s negligence or wrongdoing, contact the Nashville injury attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard. For an initial consultation, contact one of our attorneys today by emailing info@mhpslaw.com, or call (615) 800-7096.

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