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Slip & Fall Lawyer

Liability of Retail Stores and Other Businesses

Retail stores and other businesses typically attract a large number of people who enter onto their premises to browse and shop or conduct other business. A large number of customers and other commercial traffic enter stores, offices and businesses every day, and slip and fall accidents are common in these venues. If you were injured after slipping or tripping and falling in a retail store or other business, the storeowner or business operator may be liable for your injuries. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney for an analysis of your claim.

Duty to Customers

Storeowners want to attract individuals to their stores for the potential economic benefit of them becoming paying customers. People who enter retail stores and other businesses are there for the benefit of the business owner and are classified as invitees under the common law rules regarding the duties a landowner owes to people injured on his property. The owner or operator has a high duty of care to make the premises safe for customers. The storeowner must use reasonable and ordinary care to keep the property reasonably safe for the invitee. This includes the duty to warn the invitee of non-obvious, dangerous conditions known to the business owner; to use ordinary care in active operations in the business; and to make reasonable inspections to discover dangerous conditions and make them safe. There is generally no duty to warn if the dangerous condition is so obvious that the invitee should have reasonably seen it.

Essentially, to establish a slip and fall case, the plaintiff must establish that there was a substance on the floor in which he slipped; that he was injured as a result; and that the business owner or operator either caused the substance to be on the floor, had actual knowledge of its presence or should have known of its presence and cleaned it up because the substance had been on the floor for so long.

Knowledge of the Dangerous Condition

As stated above, a plaintiff must prove that the business owner knew about the spill or other dangerous condition or should have known about it. If the business owner actually caused the dangerous condition, he or she also can be said to have actual knowledge of it. If the storeowner had actual knowledge of a spill before the invitee's accident, the adequacy of any clean up or warning and the amount of time that passed between the owner's awareness of the issue and the accident are significant factors to consider in determining the owner's negligence.

In cases in which courts have found that the store or business owner should have known of the spill and taken steps to clean it up, the following factors are relevant:

  • How the substance looked at the time of the accident (if it looks like it had been there for a long period of time because it was partially dry or there were footprints in the substance)
  • Evidence that customers often dropped similar substances in the area of the accident
  • Evidence that the store did not have reasonable inspection procedures in place
  • Evidence that employees could see the substance prior to the slip and fall

A storeowner or operator can be liable if an invitee sustains injuries after slipping and falling in a store if the substance that the person slipped in was on the floor long enough so that the proprietor had constructive notice of it. A plaintiff can establish constructive notice by showing proof that the condition existed for a long enough period of time that, if the owner had exercised reasonable care, the owner should have known about the spilled substance.

What if the storeowner or operator claims that he or she does not know about the dangerous condition or that the condition did not exist for long enough to find or correct it? This is a very common situation in grocery stores where spills are frequent in areas with many customers coming through quickly. A successful injury claim in such a situation will depend on many factors. The store's employees may not have discovered the condition, but that could be because they were not reasonably inspecting for dangerous conditions. Other customers or store employees may have noticed the condition but not communicated it to anyone else. If the employees know that spills happen frequently in a particular area or that spills in a certain spot are harder to see, they should make more frequent checks in those areas. There are many different factors that can affect a storeowner or operator's duty to inspect the premises. Do not assume that you have no case just because the owner or operator claims he or she did not know of a dangerous condition.

In cases where the courts have found that the store operator's knowledge of the spill was not established, the following factors are relevant: the absence of evidence about the look of the substance or what it is; the lack of evidence indicating the length of time the substance was on the floor or evidence indicating it had not been there long; and evidence that the store performed regular inspections or that the floor was cleaned shortly before the accident.


If you have been injured while in a retail store, shopping mall, office or other place of business, you should consult with an attorney to learn about your legal rights and remedies. An experienced personal injury litigation attorney will be able to analyze your case and tell you if you have a legitimate claim for your injuries.

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