In a Texas Slip and Fall, When is a Warning Adequate?
Recently, the plaintiff in a Texas slip and fall case walked around the sign warning of a wet floor . the sign was situated in the hall right outside the bathroom in the convenience store owned by the defendant. Located at the back of the store, the restrooms could be accessed via an open entry which led to a small hall.
Surveillance footage showed the yellow warning sign which displayed “wet floor” and was placed in the entry. As the plaintiff turned the corner to walk into the hall leading to the restroom, he walked right past this sign. The plaintiff also walked right past the employee who at the moment had been wet-mopping the floor. As the plaintiff was in the restroom, the employee proceeded to wet-mop the entrance, right where the sign was placed. While mopping she moved the sign, mopped the spot where it was, and then returned it to its original spot.
Two minutes after entering the restroom, the plaintiff exited the restroom and slipped falling on the wet floor in the hallway on a few feet from where the sign was located. He was injured and the defendants were sued based on premises liability for personal injuries. The plaintiff, as a customer, under Texas law was considered to be an invitee to the store.
The plaintiffs’ argument was that the defendant had not provided proper warnings of said dangerous conditions and had failed to make the conditions adequately safe. A motion for summary judgment was filed by the defendant, the argument in it was that there was zero evidence of a breach, the warning provided was adequate, and the condition being discussed was open and very obvious. It also argued the lack of evidence of any risk of harm that was unreasonable or that reasonable care had not been used to lower the risk.
There was no specification by the trial court as to why the motion for summary judgment was granted. An appeal was submitted by the plaintiff.
It was explained by the appellate court that an injured invitee in a premises liability lawsuit must show:
1. The owner had constructive or actual knowledge of the condition which caused harm.
2. Unreasonable risk of harm was presented by the condition
3. The owner had not taken reasonable care to minimize the risk.
4. The failure of the property owner to use reasonable care so as to lower the level of risk was what legally caused the injuries of the invitee. By providing warning of a dangerous condition where invitees can see, a property owner is able to get rid of the third element.
The totality of the circumstances is what dictates where or not a warning is sufficient. When the warning has identified and communicated the existence of said condition in a manner that is understood by a reasonable person, it is considered to be adequate. It was explained by the appellate court that there were numerous facts which were undisputed. It is indisputable that there was indeed a yellow, three-foot, free standing warning sign located at the hall´s entrance which only led to the bathroom and said warning sign referred to the employee who was mopping. There was a graphic at the top of the sign that displayed a human being stick figure that was slipping and also stated “wet floor” and “caution.”
The questions that remained were whether or not this was adequate and whether it was an obvious and open danger. The plaintiffs’ argument of it being inadequate was because when he entered the restroom, there was not a wet floor, however, when he came out it was wet and the sign was not placed directly in front of the door. It was explained by the appellate court that there is no duty for the invitees´ safety to be ensured and the plaintiff had received ample warning prior to his fall. There had been active mopping in the area. It was noted by the dissenting opinion that there had been a changed condition of the floor in the hallway, however, the majority found that what following the dissent would require, was too granular of a warning.
If you have been injured on someone else´s property, you should see immediate consultation with an attorney in Corpus Christi who is knowledgeable on the subject of personal injury and experienced in liability cases so a favorable outcome can be sought. Consult the Corpus Christi attorneys from The Law Offices of Jerry J. Trevino, they are experienced and can provide you with more information.