A personal injury action arose out of a trip and fall accident that occurred at the Waldbaums supermarket in New York. The records of the case shows that at 9:15 p.m., one April night, a female customer in the store tripped and fell due to the vegetable misting machine spraying mist onto the aisles and beyond the perimeters of the mat. The mist wet the floors and caused the customer to slip into a bunched up carpet. She sustained bone injury as a result of the accident.
The supermarket, which was named defendant in the case, moves for an order granting summary judgment and dismissing the complaint on the grounds that the customer has failed to establish a prima facie case of negligence. The supermarket argued that the customer cannot establish that the supermarket created the condition that led to her accident or that the supermarket had actual or constructive notice of the alleged defect. The supermarket pointed out that the customer has walked for 15 minutes before her accident and that she had walked past the area where the accident occurred. The customer has testified that she did not recall seeing the bunched up mat when she had walked past it earlier.
The supermarket added that the customer never made any complaints to anyone about the mister or the mat prior to her accident. A store manager testified for the supermarket that about five minutes prior to the accident, the subject mat to be flat, clean and dry. He said the misters were not turned on and that he did not observe any water on the mat or anywhere within the produce aisle. He added that before the customer’s accident, there were no complaints regarding mats buckling, folding or any other defects in the mat, as well as any problems from the subject vegetable misters which may have resulted in water on the floor. The produce manager at the supermarket said the mats that are located near the vegetable misters do not get wet.
In a premises liability action, the plaintiff may satisfy the burden of showing that the property owner was on notice of the dangerous condition that allegedly resulted in the plaintiff’s injury by producing evidence that an ongoing dangerous condition existed in the area of the incident, which condition was left unaddressed by the property owner. Where the plaintiff proceeds on the theory of construction notice, the plaintiff must ultimately prove at trial that the defect which caused the accident was visible and apparent, and that it existed for a sufficient length of time prior to the accident to permit the defendant, or its employees, to discover and remedy it.
For a defendant owner to prevail or a summary judgment motion regarding a slip and fall action, the owner is required to establish as a matter of law that the owner maintained the property in question in a reasonably safe condition, and that it neither created the alleged dangerous condition existing nor had actual or constructive notice thereof.
Based on the evidence and legal argument presented, the court found that the supermarket has established, prima facie, that it neither created or had actual or constructive notice of the condition alleged to have caused the customer’s fall. Because the supermarket has provided sufficient prima facie showing that it did not create nor knew of the condition that caused the accident, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with competent evidence to demonstrate the existence of a material issue of fact, which will necessitate a trial.
In this case, the customer has met the burden of raising issues of fact that the supermarket created the dangerous condition. When an issue exists, regardless of whether that issue is weak or strong, evidence should be construed in a light most favorable to the party moved against.
The court then concluded that the evidence provided by the customer clearly raises genuine issues of fact as to the liability of the supermarket with respect to the injuries she sustained as a result of the accident.
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