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Pennsylvania Superior Court Holds That a Shopping Cart’s Tracks Through Liquid May Be Sufficient to Establish Constructive Knowledge of Dangerous Condition (PA)

January 24, 2020

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <a href=""><em><a href="">Gumby v. Prime</a></em></a>, the appellant appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the appellee. By way of background, appellee owned a supermarket where the appellant allegedly slipped on liquid from grapes that had spilled to the floor. Thereafter, the appellant brought suit against the appellee, alleging that the appellee had a hand in creating the dangerous condition and/or had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition. The appellee brought a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that the appellant failed to satisfy her burden.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The appellee’s general manager testified that bags of grapes would “routinely” come open and their contents would spill to the floor, causing a falling hazard for customers. The Superior Court determined that considering the appellee knew that this frequently occurred, actual notice may be properly found by a jury. The Court next evaluated whether the appellee exercised reasonable care to discover and protect against the dangerous condition of fallen grapes and their juice. Appellee’s employees testified that there were no written procedures or policies for floor maintenance or safety training or checking the produce section for debris or hazards. As such, the Superior Court determined that there was a genuine issue as to whether appellee exercised reasonable care.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Superior Court then went on to hold that, even if appellee did not have actual knowledge of the dangerous condition, there was evidence that could indicate constructive knowledge. Looking to legal precedent in Pennsylvania, the court reasoned that evidence of footprints through a slick condition could demonstrate constructive knowledge. <em>See Craig v. Franklin Mills Associates, L.P</em>., 555 F. Supp. 2d 547, 552 (E.D. Pa. 2008) (presence or absence of “footprints or cart tracks” through puddle can be considered to show constructive notice of condition). Here, the court reasoned, there were no footprints through the liquid, but there were shopping cart tracks. Appellee’s employee testified that the appellant was not using a shopping cart when the incident occurred and there were no other customers around when she fell. As such, the Superior Court determined that a jury could find that the cart’s tracks were not caused by the appellant and that the dangerous condition had been there long enough to give appellee constructive notice.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">This case illustrates the type of evidence Pennsylvania courts will look to in order to assess whether a party has constructive notice of a dangerous condition.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thank you to Rachel Thompson for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Colleen E. Hayes</a> with any questions.</p>
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