It's unfortunate that every year a lot of people get hurt in grocery
stores. Most of these injuries are caused by slip and falls on wet tile
in front of refrigeration units. Falls there are usually the result of
leaking pipes or clogged drains that cause overflow of water onto the floor.
If you are hurt that way or if you are a store owner or manager, some of
the following could be useful to you. The typical claim is for negligently
maintained or inspected premises and for the failure to put up signs warning
of the wet conditions. The two key issues in this type case are: (1) was
the floor hazardous to shoppers, and (2) was the store's inspection
of its premises adequate?
Let's consider the hazardous floor issue first. Engineers can test
the floor for slip resistance in both dry and wet conditions. A low slip
resistance tends to establish a store's negligence, but other factors
are also important. For example, was the customer himself negligent in
failing to see the wet floor? Maybe but probably not since a water spill
on glossy tile is hard to see. It has no contrast. Likewise, fluorescent
lighting in a store reflects off the floor surface and mimics the appearance
of a clear liquid. And stores intentionally direct shoppers' attention
away from the floor and toward merchandise to buy from shelves above the floor.
What can store owners do to prevent most falls? Maintain the refrigeration
units to avoid leaks, avoid the use of composite tiles that hide the presence
of water and place absorbent mats in front of coolers.
Regarding the second issue, frequency of inspection, stores usually direct
employees to keep logs showing how often the floors are inspected. In
areas prone to wetness, they must be inspected much more often than in
other areas of a store. Obtaining the logs can go a long way toward proving
the store's responsibility for a fall or helping it defend a case.