Trial started recently in Las Vegas for a woman who went shopping for palm trees at a big box store and left with a serious head injury.
In Hendrickson v. Lowe’s Home Centers LLC, plaintiff is seeking punitive damages in her premises liability lawsuit in a Nevada state court. She alleged the home improvement retailer failed to clear standing water in the store’s outdoor area, which caused her to slip and fall, suffering a serious brain and neck injury.
At the time, back in 2013, she was searching for trees and plants for her outdoor garden and she did not see the water that was on the concrete floor. The claim for punitive damages is bolstered by the fact plaintiff was able to show this was not merely an isolated incident. In fact, there were at least 33 other similar incidents plaintiffs identified at other stores in the outdoor garden area.
Plaintiff attorneys have characterized defense willful lack of regard for customer safety “despicable,” and argued such an award is necessary to drive home the point that ignoring such a serious safety risk should come at a price.
However, defendants have countered that a reasonable person would know to expect water in a garden area of a home improvement retail location. Further, defense argued there were reasonable steps taken to ensure customer safety. Namely, there were orange “caution” cones placed at various locations throughout the site. In fact, plaintiff fell onto one of those cones, defendant alleged.
It was reportedly more than 110 degrees on the day plaintiff fell and defense argued more than usual watering of the plants was necessary to keep the plants from wilting and dying.
Defendant also pushed back against the claim that there were dozens of prior slip-and-fall accidents at other locations. Attorneys noted these instances occurred at a total of 13 locations over the course of five years. Given the millions of customers that stream through the chain’s doors every day, lawyers characterized an incident like this as, “One in a million.”
That may be, but consider that at this one location, there had been a total of three such falls – including this one – in the outdoor garden area.
And of course, our attorneys would characterize it as a “Never accident” – because it should never happen if property owners are using reasonable caution in preventing falls and warning of the danger of standing water.
According to news coverage of the case, the 38-year-old plaintiff – a mother of three – suffered a fractured skull and brain injury that caused her to forever lose her sense of taste and smell.
Defendant insists plaintiff failed in her own duty to watch where she was going.
It is true that people have a responsibility to protect themselves from open and obvious harm. However, companies owe business invitees (those on site for the profit of the property owner) the highest level of care and consideration in ensuring the property is safe for guests.
Unfortunately in Florida, plaintiffs in slip-and-fall cases face a higher proof burden than in many other states. F.S. 768.0755 requires plaintiffs who slip and fall on a transitory foreign substance to prove the business had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it or warn of it. Constructive knowledge can be proven by showing the condition lasted for such a length of time that it should have been found in the exercise of ordinary care or that it occurred with regularity and was thus foreseeable.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Trial starts in negligence case against Lowe’s Home Centers,March 30, 2016, By Carri Greer Thevenot, Las Vegas Journal-Review
More Blog Entries:
Study: U.S. Drivers More Distracted Than Ever, March 22, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Slip-and-Fall Accident Attorney Blog