Grocery Store Slip and Falls: When is a South Carolina Store Liable?

December 17, 2015

For most families, going to a grocery store is a weekly task where the last thing any individual expects, is to slip and fall in a grocery aisle and suffer some sort of debilitating or long-term personal injury that could adversely affect his or her ability to stand, walk, or even sit for a long period of time. There are many situations where slip and falls in grocery stores happen, whether it be there is spilled milk or water in an aisle that is unattended to, there are water leaks in the refrigeration systems that maintain many of the produce, or even store consumers coming in and out of the store and tracking snow, ice, or water into the aisles and walkways of the store.

A Notable South Carolina Slip and Fall Case

One of the most notable legal cases in South Carolina regarding slip and falls, is Wintersteen v. Food Lion, Inc., (SC 2001), which involved a plaintiff’s claims for personal injuries resulting from slip and fall from a clear puddle of water in a grocery store. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff suffered a back injury and underwent surgery for herniated disks. At the trial court level, the jury, determined the grocery store to be liable, where, “upon providing its customers with a self-service soda fountain equipped with an ice dispenser, created a foreseeable risk that ice would fall onto the floor and create a dangerous condition.”   

The Decision of the Court

On appeal the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed, holding “that a storekeeper is liable only upon a showing that it actually placed the foreign substance on the floor, or that it had actual or constructive notice thereof.”  According to the reasoning of the court, “To recover damages for injuries caused by a dangerous or defective condition on a storekeeper’s premises, the plaintiff must show either (1) that the injury was caused by a specific act of the defendant which created the dangerous condition; or (2) that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and failed to remedy it.”  In this situation, the court found that plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that that “Food Lion neither placed the substance on the floor nor had actual or constructive notice thereof.”  In other words, the court clearly held that unless a store, by way of a store employee, or other agent of the store, becomes aware of such spill, and does nothing to address such, the store cannot be held liable for creating such constructive condition, even if it may have been foreseeable or even reasonable for the store owner to know of such wet and slippery condition.  As such, individuals injured in stores, have a seemingly uphill battle and will need to navigate the various legal requirements to assert such claim.

Why You Need a Slip and Fall Attorney

If you have suffered any slip and fall injuries, you need a skilled lawyer to assist you navigate the various premises liability issues you may face.  The Connell Law Firm, LLC has dedicated attorneys that understand the challenges faced by injury victims, including performing a full and complete evaluation of your legal claims, injuries, and damages.