Court Discusses Non-Delegable Duty in Recent Premises Liability Lawsuit

Legal News GavelRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case arising from a slip-and-fall accident occurring in a grocery store. The case is important for anyone who has recently been the victim of a Virginia slip-and-fall accident because it illustrates the concept of the non-delegable duty of a landowner to maintain their property in a safe condition.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff visited the defendant grocery store to buy her breakfast shortly after the store opened. However, as the plaintiff approached aisle 13, she suddenly and unexpectedly slipped in a puddle of soapy water. Evidently, the water had been left by the maintenance worker who had cleaned the store’s floors the night before.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against three parties: the grocery store, the company that the store contracted with to perform all cleaning services, and the individual contractor who did the actual cleaning the day prior to the plaintiff’s fall. Prior to the case going to trial, the plaintiff settled with the individual contractor and the case proceeded to trail against the grocery store and the contracted cleaning company.

The jury returned a verdict dividing up fault as follows:

  • Grocery Store: 5%
  • Cleaning Company: 0%
  • Independent Contractor: 75%
  • Plaintiff: 20%

The plaintiff argued that the grocery store and the cleaning company were liable the independent contractor’s share of the blame. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the grocery store had a non-delegable duty to maintain a safe premises for customers which passed on to the cleaning company and the independent contract. Thus, the plaintiff asked the court to find that the grocery store was 80% responsible and the cleaning company 75% responsible.

The Court’s Decision

The court agreed with the plaintiff that the grocery store had a non-delegable duty to keep the store safe, and that even though the store contracted that cleaning duties to other parties, the grocery store remained responsible in the end. The court explained that landowners are not permitted to delegate the duty to maintain their property in a safe condition for customers, and thus the negligence of the independent contractor was imputed to the grocery store.

The court explained, however, that there was no evidence suggesting that the cleaning company who retained the maintenance worker assumed the store’s duty. The court went on to explain that the person performing the cleaning was an independent contractor of the cleaning company and that absent some kind of contractual term or agreement, a company that hires an independent contractor is not liable for the contractor’s negligence. Thus, the court determined that the grocery store could be held liable for the independent contractor’s negligence, but the cleaning company that hired him could not.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. It is important to keep in mind that Virginia law imposes very strict rules about which accident victims can recover for their injuries, limiting the ability to recover to those who are essentially free of fault. Thus, having a dedicated and experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer by your side is crucial to the success of your claim. Attorney Charles B. Roberts has over 26 years of experience assisting his clients in obtaining the compensation they deserve, and over that time has learned what it takes to succeed on his clients’ behalves. To learn more, call 703-491-7070 to schedule your free consultation with Attorney Roberts to discuss your case today.

See More Blog Posts:

Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit Based on Defendant’s Argument that Plaintiff Had Equal Knowledge of the Hazard that Caused Her Fall, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, July 6, 2018.

Court Discusses Defendant’s Liability in Multi-Vehicle Road Rage Accident, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, July 18, 2018.