Recovering Damages for victims
The most common place our clients seem to fall is inside retail stores, such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Kroger and Lowes. This page deals simply with falls inside of a retail store. Outside falls are governed by different laws and are not addressed here.
The Kentucky law on this type of slip and fall case has changed significantly over the years and in 2003, the Supreme Court took some of the burden off of the injured shopper and placed it on the retail store. The current standard is found in the case of Lanier v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., which made it to the Kentucky Supreme Court. The Court in that case changed the standard for slip and fall cases.
The Court held that:
The existence of a foreign substance on the floor of a business’ premises that causes a customer to fall and be injured is not a safe condition and the existence of that unsafe condition creates a rebuttable presumption that the premises owner did not maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Thus, once the plaintiff establishes that he or she fell as a result of a transitory foreign substance, a rebuttable presumption of negligence arises. At that point, the burden shifts to the defendant to show by the greater weight of evidence that it exercised reasonable care in the maintenance of the premises under the circumstances. The circumstances could include the nature of the specific hazard and the nature of the defendant’s business.
In the Lanier case, Ms. Lanier fell in shampoo/conditioner in the grocery section of the store. Wal-Mart denied liability for the accident, but the Supreme Court noted that the nature of a retail store, such as Wal-Mart, encourages the shopper to take items from different parts of the store and continue shopping throughout the store, which increases the risk that something will be dropped or spilled.
So, if you fall in a store, you must prove that there was a substance or condition on the floor that caused you to fall.
Then, it is the burden of the store to show that:
- No employee of the store caused the condition or substance to be on the floor;
- That the substance or condition existed for such a short period of time that the store could not reasonably have discovered it and either warned customers or cleaned it up.
Another important thing of which you should be aware is that the time limit to file a lawsuit in these cases if one (1) year from the fall. However, many retail stores will destroy videotape promptly, especially any videotape that may benefit the injured person. It is important that you contact an attorney immediately if you believe you have a valid slip and fall claim.
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