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Slip on Floor: Need More Than Speculation on Floor Condition

I’m Katelyn 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 topics related to personal injury law.

Today’s question comes from a person who recently asked about the kind of evidence needed to prove that a slip and fall was caused by unreasonably dangerous slick floors in a department store.

Each year, many people are injured after falling on slippery floors. Although floors may be unreasonably slippery, a recent Indiana Court of Appeals case emphasizes that an injured plaintiff needs to be able to provide more than his or her own speculation as to the cause of the fall in order to establish a genuine issue of an unreasonably slick floor at trial.

In an 2013 Indiana Court of Appeals case entitled Maxfield v. Women’s Health Partnership, P.C. et al., Ms. Maxfield slipped and hit her head as she fell to the floor in an examination room at a doctor’s office. Ms. Maxfield and her husband sued the doctor’s office and its cleaning company alleging that the doctor’s office employees were negligent in ignoring or failing to discover the hazard in the slippery floor and in failing to warn Ms. Maxfield to keep her rubber-soled shoes on, and that the cleaning company was negligent in over-buffing or over-waxing the floors. The cleaning company and doctor’s office filed a motion for summary judgment asking that the trial court determine there is no evidence supporting the claim that the floor was slippery and further asking the court to resolve the case in favor of the defendants.

In the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment for the defendants, the court noted that Ms. Maxfield did not offer any facts supporting her theory that the floors were over-buffed or over-waxed other than her own speculation from her observation that the floor looked shiny.

Ms. Maxfield appealed the trial court’s decision, but the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

In Indiana, the general rule is that negligence liability cannot be inferred by mere speculation as to the cause of a fall. In furtherance of this established rule, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined that a floor could appear shiny for a number of reasons besides being over-waxed or over-buffed and therefore the trial court was correct in finding Ms. Maxfield’s opinion as to the cause of her fall was based on speculation, which is not enough on its own to create a genuine dispute as to the facts of the case at trial.

This recent Indiana Court of Appeals case highlights the importance of having evidence beyond the injured party’s speculation as to the floor condition in slip-and-fall cases. While personal observation is important, it often cannot be the sole evidence relied on by an injured party to show that a floor was unreasonably slick.

If you have questions about a slip-and-fall situation you were in, feel free to contact our attorneys for specific advice on your circumstance.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.