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Mere Affirmations of a “Shiny” and “Slippery” Floor is Insufficient to Establish Premises Liability

April 19, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Varghese-v.-TJX.pdf">Varghese v. TJX</a></em><a href="https://casetext.com/case/varghese-v-tjx-cos"></a>, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Court granted Summary Judgment in favor of defendant TJX Companies, Inc. (“T.J. Maxx”), finding no premises liability existed because the plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to demonstrate the existence of a hazardous condition. In brief, Divya Varghese was shopping in the shoe department at the T.J. Maxx store. Varghese sat down on a bench to try on a pair of two to three-inch high heeled shoes. After putting on the heels, Varghese walked a couple of steps and proceeded to slip and fall on the floor. In her deposition, Varghese stated that she did not notice any “liquid, wax, or other substance on the floor” and there was not a specific spot that was slippery due to any foreign substance.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Varghese commenced a premises liability action against T.J. Maxx. She contended that although there was not any foreign substance on the floor, the floor was still slippery due to the type of flooring installed at the T.J. Maxx. Varghese’s expert found that “it [would be] reasonable and appropriate for T.J. Maxx to provide a carpeted area in the shoe department where customers are trying on new shows that they may not be accustomed to wearing.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">It is well established in Pennsylvania that summary judgment in favor of the defendant is appropriate where a plaintiff merely alleges that the flooding was “shiny” and/or “slippery.”  Something beyond a shiny and slippery floor is required to establish that a hazardous condition existed. The Court rejected Varghese’s reliance <em>Zito v. Merit Outlet Stores</em>, where the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed the trial court’s order granting non-suit. The Court determined that although <em>Zito </em>had an absence of liquid or a foreign substance on the floor, the plaintiff there alleged more facts, such as overcrowded isles. The Court found that T.J. Maxx’s failure to install carpeting in the shoe department did not amount to a breach of due care. Therefore, the Court granted T.J. Maxx’s motion for Summary Judgment.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">This case reaffirmed the notion that courts cannot allow jurors to speculate in the absence of evidence. To permit a premises liability action where there are insufficient facts alleged would result in jurors speculating as to the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Rachel Thompson for her contribution to this post. Please email <a href="mailto:chayes@wcmlaw.com">Colleen Hayes</a> with any questions.</p>

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