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Federal Court of Appeals affirms $525,000 verdict against retail store in Tennessee in slip and fall injury suit

TECHNIKA SH-A366

By Kurt Maier, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

The basic components of a negligence case are duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. In slip and fall injury cases, called premises liability cases in legal terms, an injured person must also show that the owner or operator of the premises either caused the hazardous condition that led to his or her injuries or had constructive notice of.

The constructive notice element of proof can be shown in several ways, including proof that the dangerous or defective condition had been in place for a length of time sufficient for the defendant to have become aware of the condition in the exercise of reasonable care. Constructive notice can also be shown through the defendant’s recurring conduct or a continuing condition.

Of course, each case is unique, and disagreements can certainly arise as to whether a defendant was constructively notified of a particular situation. In some such cases, video surveillance footage can be an important piece of evidence, even if the slip and fall injury in question was not captured on camera.

Facts of the Case

In the recent federal case of Corley v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, the plaintiff was a woman who slipped and fell in a puddle of water while walking down the main aisle of a Wal-Mart store in Antioch, Tennessee. Video surveillance footage retained by the store showed a store employee passing the location in which the plaintiff was to slip and fall shortly thereafter. Other footage showed the clean-up efforts of other store employees, indicating that the spill covered a large area. The plaintiff’s fall itself was not captured in the video footage produced by Wal-Mart.

At trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff, assigning 90% of the fault for the accident to Wal-Mart and awarding the plaintiff $525,000 in damages. Wal-Mart filed a motion for a judgment as a matter of law, asserting that the plaintiff had failed to present sufficient evidence that it was or should have been aware of the hazardous condition that led to her fall. The district court denied the motion, and Wal-Mart appealed.

Proceedings in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

On further consideration by the appellate court, the district court’s judgment was affirmed. The court noted that the district court had accepted the conclusion urged by the plaintiff, namely that the video footage proved that water was on the floor during the entire time between the employee walking by the area and the plaintiff’s fall.

Although Wal-Mart maintained that the puddle was not on the floor at the time the employee walked by, it was within the province of the jury and the district court to agree with the plaintiff’s interpretation of the video footage.

To Get Advice About a Tennessee or Kentucky Premises Liability Case

If you or a family member needs legal advice concerning a fall or other accident that happened on the premises of a retail store, restaurant, or other place of business, the experienced Bowling Green personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley can help. For a free initial consultation, call me, attorney Kurt Maier, at (270) 781-6500 or e-mail me at kmaier@elpolaw.com. We help clients throughout south central Kentucky and middle Tennessee, including Bowling Green, Franklin, and Nashville.

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