Proving a Slip-and-Fall Claim in Cleveland

Premises liability refers to a personal injury claim arising from a property owner’s failure to address a safety hazard that harms an invited guest. The most common example of premises liability is the slip-and-fall accident. Say you’re visiting a local supermarket here in Cleveland. While you’re walking down the aisle, you slip on a previously unnoticed puddle of water. The fall causes you serious injury, so you file a personal injury lawsuit against the store owner for failing to clean up the puddle.
While this may sound simple enough, the reality is that premises liability claims are often among the more difficult types of personal injury cases to win. The reason for this is that it’s not enough to simply prove there was a safety hazard on the defendant’s property. As a matter of law, business owners are not liable for every hazard, only those where they had “superior” knowledge and failed to act. If the plaintiff–the customer who was injured–had equal knowledge of the hazard, or the danger was “open and obvious” to anyone paying attention, then an Ohio court will rule in favor of the defendant.

Court Dismisses Lawsuit Over Unexplained Fall in Store Entrance

Here is a recent Ohio case, Bragg v. GFS Marketplace, LLC, which helps illustrate how some of these legal principles are applied in practice. The plaintiff in this case went to the defendant’s store to pick up supplies for his employer. After just taking a few steps inside the store’s entrance, the plaintiff slipped and fell on the floor. The plaintiff’s shoulder was injured as a result of the fall, and he subsequently sued the defendant for damages.
During a deposition, the plaintiff said he did not know what caused him to slip and fall in the store’s entrance. He noted it had snowed earlier in the day and said the floor was slippery in the entrance way. But he could not point to any specific hazard.
The trial court ended up granting summary judgment to the defendant. Basically, the judge determined the plaintiff had not presented enough evidence of the defendant’s negligence to justify going to trial. The plaintiff appealed the judge’s ruling, but an Ohio appeals court agreed that was the proper course of action. In its own opinion, the Court of Appeals explained that in any slip-and-fall case, “it is incumbent upon the plaintiff to identify or explain the reason for the fall.” Here, the plaintiff failed to do so. And since he didn’t know what caused the fall, he also could not show the defendant “knew of the alleged slippery status of the floor or how long the floor was slippery before [the plaintiff’s] fall.” Under the circumstances, the court said no reasonable jury could find there was any negligence on the part of the defendant.

Speak with a Cleveland Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Immediately following a slip-and-fall accident, your first instinct will unlikely be to conduct a full investigation of what caused your fall. This is why you need to work with an experienced Cleveland personal injury attorney who knows what to look for in these types of cases. Contact Tittle & Perlmuter at (216) 308-1522 today if you need immediate advice or assistance with a personal injury matter. We serve clients in Elyria, Lakewood, Chardon and Sandusky.

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