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California Slip and Fall Case Illustrates Issues in Premises Liability Claims

If you suffered an injury because of dangerous and unsafe property conditions, you may be eligible for compensation from the property owner. Known as premises liability cases, these lawsuits can be complex because the injured party (the plaintiff) must prove multiple elements to succeed. A San Diego County slip and fall case in December 2018 illustrates some of the issues in premises liability cases.

In Bartholomew v. The Kroger Co. , a California nurse who slipped on a wet floor at a Ralphs supermarket in Oceanside and injured her shoulder sued the chain for damages. (Ralphs is a subsidiary of the Kroger Co.) The injury required shoulder replacement surgery, but the procedure led to an infection, necessitating a second surgery. Ralphs admitted negligence in allowing the floor to remain wet without posting warning signs, which meant the trial wasn’t about whether the plaintiff would be awarded damages but about how much she should receive.

Key witnesses for both sides were life-care planners who testified about the consequences of the injury on the plaintiff’s life. These experts differed significantly in their estimates of the future cost of medical expenses, a common occurrence in premises liability cases, but in the end, the jury awarded the plaintiff more than $1.4 million, with more than  $270,000 for medical expenses and more than $1 million for pain and suffering.

Proving premises liability in California

  • Although each case is different, this case reveals many of the issues a court must resolve in slip and fall claims. A plaintiff must prove these basic elements when filing a premises liability claim:
  • That the defendant (in this case, Ralphs Grocery Co.) was in control of the property.
  • That the defendant was negligent in how it maintained and used the property. (Ralphs admitted negligence.)
  • That the incident harmed the plaintiff. (The plaintiff’s fall led to two shoulder replacements.)
  • That the negligence of the defendant (Ralphs) was primarily responsible for the injuries the plaintiff suffered. (The slip and fall caused by the wet floor resulted in the plaintiff’s shoulder injury.)

Additionally, the property owner, Ralphs, had a duty of care that included warning customers about dangers, such as water on the floor, if they knew or should have known about the hazard. Businesses such as grocery stores, where wet floors are a common occurrence, usually post warning signs or place cones to warn of the hazardous condition. Ralphs had not done this when the victim slipped and fell.

Premises liability injuries can be suffered on both private and public properties and are not limited to slip and fall incidents. They can also involve dog bites or attacks, acts of violence stemming from poor security or insufficient lighting in parking lots and garages, and other incidents.

If you were injured due to unsafe property conditions in the Santa Barbara area, an experienced premises liability attorney can advise you about filing an injury claim. Patterson Law in Santa Barbara provides knowledgeable advice and skilled representation to victims of slip and fall incidents and other premises liability accidents. To schedule a free consultation, call 888-479-4589 or contact us online.