Slip and Fall
Slip and fall incidents usually occur on business premises and are caused by the presence of a foreign object or liquid substance on the floor.
Florida historically required a slip and fall victim to prove that a business had actual or constructive knowledge of the presence of a foreign object or substance on the floor. This was difficult to do as the victim never noticed the condition prior to the slip and fall and was in no position to establish the length of time the substance remained on the floor prior to the slip and fall incident. The level of proof was referred to as the rotten banana peel test since the victim would have to establish the length of time the object or substance was on the floor through circumstantial evidence (i.e. the banana peel is rotten thus it must have been there for a while).
In 2001 The Florida Supreme Court in Owens v. Publix Supermarkets, Inc. held that a transitory foreign substance on the floor of a business premise is not a safe condition and the mere existence of such a condition would create a rebuttable presumption that the business owner failed to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Consequently, once a plaintiff established that a transitory foreign substance caused him to fall, the burden shifted to the business owner to prove that it exercised reasonable care in maintaining the premises. This made it substantially easier for a person to prove his/her claim as he/she did not have to prove how long the substance had been on the floor. In 2002 Florida amended its law so as to be consistent with the decision in Owens.
However, in 2010 Florida amended Florida Statute §768.0755 and returned to the tougher standard which requires the victim to once again provide evidence of the length of time the object or substance remained on the floor, in order to establish constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition on the part of the business.
The practical effect of the law is that with a higher burden of proof on plaintiffs, cases will be more difficult to prove unless there is evidence that the business entity knew, or should have known, of the conditions leading to the accident.