Slip and fall injuries that occur on a wet floor are fairly common in Georgia and the key to knowing whether it is a valid case or not all comes down to a few key questions:
- Who made the floor wet? Customer or Employee
- Does an employee actually know about the wet area
This divides the cases up. Take for example a case where the spill is on the aisle and was caused by another random customer knocking over a product. If that is the origin and no employee has seen the spill yet, it cannot be store’s fault if you fall unless they have had sufficient time such that they should have discovered it.
The idea is this; they get a reasonable period of time to find the problem and fix the problem. Anything else is unfair to the store. In Georgia, grocery stores generally need to have a floor inspection routine and logs to find these kind of spills. There are ways to show notice to the store; 1) the store had an employee in the area that should have seen it or 2) the spill had been there long enough that it should have been discovered.
If they don’t have an inspection routine or if the routine has patrol of an area with longer than 30 minute cycles, a judge will often let the jury decide if the store was negligent and responsible.
The second overall category would be spills the store had actual knowledge of such as when they store employee mops an area. When the employee creates the wetness, they have to warn customers about it and that is usually why the bucket itself is yellow and has a warning on the side about wet floors.
Knowing that let’s analyze a terrible Court of Appeals decision that came out in 2016 that illustrates the problem that bad timing can present.
In the case of Youngblood v. All American Food, Inc. d/b/a Food Depot 338 Ga. App. 817 (2016) a customer came to the front and told the cashier they made a spill. The cashier sent an employee to clean it up. When the employee arrived the victim had already fallen and sustained an injury.
Evidence showed that the store had a policy of having one employee stand over a spill while a second goes for the sign. The Court correctly said that even with that policy, in these circumstances there was nothing else the store could have done. They behaved reasonably, period. Accordingly the case was thrown out.
That is the key takeaway. If the store behaves reasonably once they find out about the spill, there is no liability. Had the store delayed going back to the aisle by say, 10 minutes, it is likely the case would have gone to a jury based on the delay and the argument that such a delay was unreasonable.