Court Reverses Dismissal of Plaintiff’s Slip-and-Fall Case Based on Defendant’s Willful Ignorance of Hazard

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 Facts of the Case

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.

A Wal-Mart surveillance camera caught the plaintiff’s fall on video. It showed that just prior to her fall, another customer rented a Rug Doctor machine from the kiosk. That customer had difficulty in getting the machine into her cart, and in so doing she had to rock the machine back and forth several times. While the video quality was such that the viewer could not tell if water had been spilled, it was a possibility. The video also showed a Wal-Mart employee walk past the area after the spill but before the plaintiff’s fall.

Wal-Mart claimed that the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed because there was no evidence that Wal-Mart knew of the spill. The lower court agreed and granted Wal-Mart’s motion for summary judgment.

On appeal, however, the case was reversed in favor of the plaintiff. The court explained that Wal-Mart’s failure to educate its employees about the Rug Doctor kiosk and the potential hazards that it could cause to customers should not excuse Wal-Mart of any potential liability. Thus, the court instructed that the case should proceed to trial, where a jury will be able to make the determination.

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

If you or a loved one has recently suffered back injuries or other serious injuries in a Virginia slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Virginia injury attorneys at the Schupak Law Firm have extensive experience representing accident victims in a wide range of Virginia personal injury cases. We handle every case and every client with the utmost respect and professionalism. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 703-491-7070.

See More Blog Posts:

Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Product Liability Case After Finding Warnings Were Adequate, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, April 18, 2018.

Court Discusses the Doctrine of Imputed Negligence in Recent Car Accident Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, May 4, 2018.

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