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Slip and Fall on Wet Restaurant Floor

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who fell in a restroom at a restaurant on a wet floor. She broke her hip. After the fall, she screamed. The manager came in and told her that no one was aware of any dangerous condition. In fact, the manager said she just checked the restrooms about 20 minutes before the fall. The caller wanted to know her legal rights.

We have posted before on how the law views slip and fall situations, and we nevertheless get frequent calls on the subject.

The issue in the caller’s case is what legal experts call a situation involving a transitory foreign substance on a floor in a business establishment.

The issue for the courts is whether the business owner or operator has either actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition that caused the fall.

Actual knowledge is proven by the owner either creating the condition or knowing about the condition.

Constructive knowledge is established by proof that the condition existed for a long enough time that the business should have discovered the condition had it exercised ordinary care.

Another way to establish constructive knowledge is by proof that the condition occurred with sufficient regularity that it was foreseeable that the condition would develop on the day in question.

So let’s suppose the facts indicate that the restaurant owner knew there was a leak at the base of the toilet, which permitted water to leak out each time the toilet was flushed. Such facts would indicate actual knowledge of a dangerous condition.

When there is actual or constructive knowledge of a condition, the business operator is required to warn of the danger or correct the situation.

Proof might involve looking for records of the business operator contacting a plumber. Proof might require speaking to all managers and employees to find out if one or more were aware of the condition but did not take any steps to warn or correct it.

But let’s suppose that the condition resulted from another customer splashing water onto the floor. Let’s assume further that the restaurant operator had someone frequently go in and check the restroom floors within 10 minutes of the fall and found no dangerous condition.

If such evidence exists, the business owner will have reasonable grounds to argue that they should not be held liable.

What we find, though, in many situations is that falls occur when employees are improperly trained. Sometimes an employee mops and forgets to put out a wet floor sign. Sometimes an employee grabs the wrong cleaner to mop and makes the floor slippery.

It’s essential to remember that if the business operator is doing everything correctly, nobody should fall. In other words, if the property owner knows there is a danger, they should correct it or warn about it. If they do one of those two things, a customer entering the restroom should be safe.

Frequently, business operators have written policies and procedures dealing with this particular type of situation. However, the employees often are not trained in these policies and procedures, or the practices and guidelines are not enforced.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com.