Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving competing theories of how the plaintiff’s injury occurred, requiring the court to determine which of the two proposed alternatives were more likely. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s version of events was the only plausible version, and thus permitted his case to proceed.
The case presents an important issue for Indiana personal injury accident victims because it illustrates a common defense that defendants frequently raise in Indiana slip-and-fall cases.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured after he slipped and fell in a Wal-Mart aisle. The accident was caught on video, and showed that prior to the plaintiff’s fall, a Wal-Mart employee came through the area with an automated floor-cleaning machine. The machine was designed to dispense soapy liquid, scrub the floor, and squeegee the remaining liquid before sucking it back up into the machine.
The video showed the machine pause for a few moments right where the plaintiff fell. The employee operating the machine continued past the area without checking for any spills or placing a “wet floor” sign in the area despite a Wal-Mart policy that employees use these signs when scrubbing the floor.
Over the course of the next 20 minutes, several employees and customers are shown walking by the area. None of them inspect the area or seem as though they are avoiding a wet spot. At some point, two employees of a McDonalds that is located at the front of the store dragged a trash can through the area. Again, nothing could be seen on the floor. Moments later the plaintiff was seen approaching the aisle, then slipping.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against Wal-Mart, claiming that the store was negligent for causing or failing to clean up the spill. Wal-Mart claimed that it did not have knowledge of the spill, and that the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed. Wal-Mart also hypothesized that the spill was caused by other customers or by the McDonald’s employees dragging the garbage can through the aisle. The trial court granted Wal-Mart’s motion for summary judgment and the plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision in favor of the plaintiff. The court explained that the plaintiff’s proposed theory was supported by reasonable inferences. Specifically, that the floor-cleaning machine left behind liquid that Wal-Mart employees failed to clean up. The court went on to explain that Wal-Mart’s proposed alternatives had no basis in fact and were completely conjecture. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff’s case should be permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana 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 decades of combined experience representing injury victims and their families pursue claims for compensation against those responsible for their injuries. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case today, call 888-532-7766.
Court Discusses Grocery Store’s Duty to Keep Store Free of Dangerous Hazards, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, August 6, 2018
Indiana Court Determines Wires Running Across Hospital Room Floor Were Not an Obvious Hazard, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, July 18, 2018