All business owners owe their customers a duty of care to keep areas accessible to customers in a reasonably safe condition. This generally means eliminating any known hazards, conducting frequent inspections to discover hazards, and warning customers of hazards that are either in the process of being fixed or cannot be fixed. If a business owner fails to live up to this duty, and a customer is injured as a result, the business may be liable for the customer’s injuries through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit.
In a recent case, a court considered a lawsuit that was filed against a grocery store by a customer who slipped and fell while shopping. The court had to consider whether the store could be held liable even though the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s fall was the fault of an independent contractor that was employed by a company that the grocery store had paid to keep the store clean.
Ultimately, the court concluded that the grocery store had a non-delegable duty to keep the store safe and free of hazards. Thus, although there was no evidence suggesting that the store was responsible for the hazard, it could still be held liable based on its non-delegable duty.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff arrived at the defendant grocery store shortly after it opened to buy her breakfast. As she was walking down one of the store’s aisles, she slipped and fell after stepping in a puddle of soapy water. Evidently, the puddle had been left by the maintenance worker who had mopped the store’s floors the night before.
The maintenance worker was not an employee of the store but worked as an independent contractor for a cleaning company that the store had retained to clean the store each night. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the store, the cleaning company, and the maintenance worker. The plaintiff settled her case with the maintenance worker, so the case proceeded to trial against the store and the cleaning company.
The jury returned a verdict finding the store was 5% at fault, the plaintiff 20% at fault, and the maintenance worker 75% at fault. The plaintiff asked the court to order the store to cover the maintenance worker’s share of the damages, based on the store’s non-delegable duty to maintain a safe premises. As noted above, the court agreed with the plaintiff and held that the store could be held liable for the maintenance worker’s share.
The court, however, also determined that the cleaning company could not be held responsible for the maintenance worker’s negligence because the maintenance worker was an independent contractor for the cleaning company. The court explained that the general rule is that a company is not liable for the negligent acts of an independent contractor.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience representing victims in all types of Indiana premises liability cases, including slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation.
Jury Must Determine if Plaintiff’s Delay in Notifying Insurance Company of Accident was Excused, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, July 5, 2018
Indiana Court Determines Wires Running Across Hospital Room Floor Were Not an Obvious Hazard, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, July 18, 2018