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Impact of a Store's Failure to Inspect Its Floors - Slip & Fall Basics

Store owners are under a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe for their patrons. This does not mean that they have to be perfect. But it does mean that they have an ongoing obligation to inspect their premises. Typically, this means inspecting the floors to make sure there is nothing people can slip or trip on. So what happens when a store fails to adequately inspect?

In order to succeed on his or her premises liability claim, a plaintiff must show that the store owned or controlled the premises, that it was negligent in the management of the premises and that its negligence caused her injury and damages. Craddock v. Kmart Corp., 89 Cal.App.4th 1300, 1306 (2001).

A store owner can defeat this by showing that it exercised ordinary care:

"A store owner exercises ordinary care by making reasonable inspections of the portions of the premises open to customers, and the care required is commensurate with the risks involved … If the owner operates a self-service grocery store, where customers are invited to inspect, remove, and replace goods on shelves, 'the exercise of ordinary care may require the owner to take greater precautions and make more frequent inspections … to safeguard against the possibility that such a customer may create a dangerous condition by disarranging the merchandise' and creating potentially hazardous conditions." Ortega v. Kmart Corp., 26 Cal.4th 1200, 1205 (2001).

California law does not require a plaintiff to prove how long a dangerous condition existed prior to an accident. Evidence "that an inspection had not been made within a particular period of time prior to an accident may warrant an inference that the defective condition existed long enough so that a person exercising reasonable care would have discovered it." Id. at 1210.

So the bottom line is this: If you can show that the store owner did not adequately inspect the store, a jury can find that the dangerous condition had been present long enough for the owner to identify and clean it.

Pete Clancy is an Oakland personal injury lawyer. He can be reached at 925-835-7500, or by email ([email protected]).