The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently affirmed a trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the defendant grocery store in a slip and fall case. In <em><a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Barrios-v.-Giant-Food-Stores.pdf">Barrios v. Giant Food Stores</a></em>, plaintiff Rocio Barrios appealed the December 14, 2017 order granting of Giant’s motion for summary judgment.
On June 8, 2011, Barrios claimed that she was shopping at a Giant grocery store when she slipped and fell on a transparent wet substance in the aisle. Employees from Giant admitted that they saw an orange-sized pool of clear liquid on the floor immediately following Barrios’ fall, however they were not certain of the origin. Barrios alleged that the liquid was the result of a meat refrigerator case that was leaking, as her fall occurred near the end of the meat aisle. Surveillance video confirmed that Barrios fell near the end of the meat aisle and that, after being alerted to her fall, Giant employees came to her assistance and cleaned the liquid with paper towels.
The Superior Court explained the standard in Pennsylvania that, in order to recover damages in a slip and fall case, the plaintiff must prove that the store owner deviated from his duty of reasonable care under the circumstances and that the store owner knew or should have known that the harmful condition existed. Furthermore, the plaintiff must show that the store owner either helped to create the harmful condition or had actual or constructive notice of the condition. In this case, Barrios alleged that liquid came from a leaky meat refrigerator, and also cited repair records produced by Giant which showed that the meat refrigerator had been serviced by a repair company on April 26, 2011; June 10, 2011; and June 24, 2011; as support for her assertion that Giant had actual notice of the dangerous condition.
The court reasoned that, even viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Barrios, the mere presence of water on the floor does not prove that it came from the meat refrigerator. Furthermore, even if the water on the floor came from the meat refrigerator, Barrios did not show that Giant had notice of the dangerous condition with adequate time to correct it. Barrios presented evidence of a repair order two months before her fall that was unrelated to any leaking issue, and also repair records for two dates <em>after </em>her fall. As the court pointed out, the fact that the meat refrigerator was serviced after Barrios’ fall did not constitute evidence that Giant had notice of a leak <em>before</em> Barrios fell. Thus, the court concluded that Barrios’ theory relied on conjecture and speculation, and affirmed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of Giant. Thanks to Greg Herrold for his contribution to this post. Please email <a href="mailto:BGibbons@wcmlaw.com">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.