Lillie was shopping at Westfield Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, New Jersey. She slipped on clear liquid on the floor of the mall and sustained injuries. She was unable to see the liquid or determine for how long it had been present. There is a food court in the mall one level below from where she fell.
Normally, if you sue a business for a slip and fall, you have to prove that the business knew, or should have known, about the hazard that caused you to fall. In deciding whether this standard is met, the court will look at many factors, such as how long the hazard was present and how obvious it was.
Lillie could not prove that the mall knew, or should have known, about the liquid on the floor. However, sometimes a good personal injury attorney can use an exception to a law to get around the law’s restrictions. In New Jersey, a personal injury lawyer can argue that, even if a business didn’t know about the hazard, it still should be responsible. This exception applies where, given the nature of the business, it would be expected that the type of hazard that caused the slip and fall injury would routinely arise. For example, in a supermarket, you would reasonably expect that some liquid products might spill on the floor.
However, in Lillie’s case, the judge found that the mall’s business operations were not comparable to a supermarket. Therefore, he tossed Lillie’s case out of court. An appeals court affirmed his ruling. Key to the court’s ruling was the fact that Lillie slipped on a different floor of the mall than where the food court was located. Had she slipped near the food court, the court might well have allowed her to because it could be expected that there would be spills in that area. Thus, the mall should be extra vigilant about keeping the floor near the food court clean.
I think that the judges were mistaken in their ruling. I agree with Lillie’s personal injury lawyer. In a shopping mall, it is normal for patrons to carry their beverages purchased at the food court anywhere in the mall. The mall should have been held responsible for Lillie’s injuries.