Frequently Asked Questions
Florida premises liability law determines the duty of Target and others who own or control establishments and buildings to lawful entrants. Generally, such a landowner must exercise reasonable care to keep the premises free of dangerous or hazardous conditions. This duty exists where the would-be defendant knows or should have known about the condition. Failure to remedy such a hazard would constitute negligence by the premises owner.
Often in retail stores, spills occur or objects find the floor at an instant, and someone can slip or fall before the store employees can notice it or remove it. To that end, Florida Statutes Section 768.0755 requires that injured customers prove in cases of “transitory foreign substances” that a store actually knew or constructively (that is, the store should have known) that the substance causing the trip or fall was on the floor. “Transitory foreign substances” are those which are not in their place, such as a cup, piece of clothing, or spilled liquid, which has made its way on the floor.
When you rely on constructive knowledge rather than actual knowledge, you must demonstrate either that:
*The condition was on the floor long enough that an employee should have known of the condition or
*The condition occurred frequently enough that the store or employees should have reasonably foreseen its existence on the floor
Evidence of actual or constructive knowledge often is circumstantial. You may resort to:
*Security or other store video
*Testimony of Target associates, customers, or other witnesses of the condition or reports
*Calls on the intercom or a phone to clean the spill
If you are physically able after a slip and fall, take photographs or video with your smartphone or other device of the substance and area in which you tripped or fell. Note the department and the products in the place or area. Get the names of any associates, customers, or other witnesses to your fall or the foreign substance.
Do not forget to report the incident promptly (often immediately) to the manager on duty. If possible, have that person come to the place where you tripped or fell. This places the store and Target on notice to not destroy video footage and builds a record of the incident.
Having video or photographs of the condition and promptly reporting it helps you potentially defeat an “open and obvious” defense. Lawyers for Target, other big-box retailers, and premises owners invoke this doctrine, which says that the owner need not warn shoppers of conditions which are obvious or apparent that the injured person could have avoided it.
Some conditions may fit the bill of open and obvious. Likely, you would clearly ascertain the presence of a shelf, display, or rack such that you should not run into it. If the store places a “Wet Floor” sign, a cone, or caution tape, chances are that the court would say that you should have ascertained the danger and taken reasonable steps to avoid it.
Other hazards, especially liquids or objects on the ground, may not prove as open or obvious. You might contend that Target’s displays of promotions and products distracted you from the dangerous condition. The open and obvious doctrine does not excuse a premises owner from the duty to not create a dangerous condition.
Florida has a four-year statute limitations on personal injury claims, which include those for premises liability. If you have been injured from a trip and fall at Target, you must start the lawsuit within four years after the accident.
Premises liability lawyers in Florida gather video, photographic, and other evidence of the trip and fall and the condition or conditions that caused it. Proving your case also involves gathering your medical bills, paystubs and tax returns to prove lost wages and lost earning ability, and witnesses to your pain and suffering and loss of ability to recreate and carry on with your accustomed lifestyle.