A recent Fourth District case detailed the history of slip and fall law in Florida. In 2008, the plaintiff in Pembroke Lakes Mall, Ltd. v. McGruder slipped and fell on a clear slippery substance on the floor at a mall. In 2010, she filed suit against the owner of the mall and the company contracted to clean and maintain the mall premises. She alleged negligence in failure to warn, allowing the spill to remain on the floor, and failure to have a proper maintenance and clean-up plan. The defendants moved for the court to determine that section 768.0755, Florida Statutes (2010), applied retroactively to the case. The trial court denied this motion and determined that 768.0710, Florida Statutes (2008), would be the applicable statute. Section 768.0755 requires an injured person to prove that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the substance and should have taken action to remedy the dangerous condition. The statute the trial court applied, 768.0710, did not require the plaintiff to prove either actual or constructive notice. The jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and the owner appealed.
The appellate court noted that all premises owners owe invitees a duty of reasonable care to maintain the premises in a safe condition. Before 2001, a person injured in a slip and fall on a foreign substance had to show that the owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition. In 2001, the Florida Supreme Court held that the presence of a foreign substance on a business’s floor creates a rebuttable presumption that the owner did not maintain the premises in reasonably safe condition. If the plaintiff shows that she slipped and fell on a transitory foreign substance on the floor, the burden shifts to the defendant to show that it exercised reasonable care to maintain the premises in a safe condition under the circumstances.
In 2002, Florida enacted 768.0710, Florida Statutes (2002), which eliminated that burden-shifting. That statute specifically noted that actual or constructive notice of the presence of the object or substance was not a required element of proof, but could be considered with the other evidence.