Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that presents an interesting issue for Virginia slip-and-fall victims who are considering filing a premises liability claim. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence of the defendant store’s negligence to survive a defense summary judgment challenge. Ultimately, the court held that the defendant’s willful ignorance of the potential hazard may give rise to liability, and it determined that the lower court was improper to grant summary judgment to the defendant.
The plaintiff slipped and fell in a Wal-Mart store while walking down an aisle. Although the plaintiff did not notice anything on the floor as she approached the spot where she fell, when she got up, she noticed that she had slipped in a puddle of water.
As it turns out, there was a Rug Doctor display in that aisle from which customers could rent carpet cleaning machines. The display was set up so that a customer could rent the machine from an automated kiosk near the machines. As a part of the agreement between Rug Doctor and Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart would receive a portion of the income the kiosk generated for allowing the use of the store’s aisle space. However, Wal-Mart employees were not necessary in the regular operation of the machine and were not trained on how to use the kiosk or repair the machines. A Rug Doctor employee would routinely stop by to perform the necessary maintenance.