Federal District Court Denies Summary Judgment in Tennessee Woman’s Premises Liability Case Against Retail Store

While Tennessee premises liability law imposes a general duty of care on landowners, including those who own retail stores, restaurants, and the like, proving fault in a particular case can sometimes be a difficult endeavor. This is because slip and fall, trip and fall, and fall-down lawsuits tend to be extremely fact-specific.

Two customers who suffer identical injuries could have very difficult outcomes, depending on the particular hazard that caused their accident, how that hazard came to be, how long it had been in existence, and whether any store employee was aware of – or, in the exercise of due diligence, should have been aware of – the dangerous condition that led to the customer’s injuries.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division, the plaintiff was a woman who slipped and fell in the defendant’s retail store in Franklin, causing injuries that required two surgeries and a lengthy rehabilitation. (The woman’s husband joined in the action to assert a loss of consortium claim.) According to the plaintiff, she and her cousin had been shopping in the grocery section of the store with their small children when the plaintiff slipped in a puddle of applesauce. The plaintiff stated that the applesauce was not noticeable because it was similar in color to the floor.

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because there was no evidence that any of its employees spilled the applesauce that caused the plaintiff’s fall or that it had either actual or constructive notice of the spill.

The Federal District Court’s Decision

The district court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the defendant had failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that the spill “posed an obvious risk to a person exercising reasonable perception, intelligence, and judgment.” The court thus concluded that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff under the circumstances. The issue of whether the defendant breached that duty was a jury question to be resolved at trial.

In so holding, the court noted that the defendant’s argument that the applesauce was an “open and obvious danger” was in direct tension with its argument that it did not have notice of the spill, even though one of its employees walked through the area where the plaintiff’s fall occurred but did not observe anything on the floor in question.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been hurt due to the negligence of a retail establishment or another business, experienced Knoxville premises liability attorney Mark Hartsoe at the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C., will be happy to talk to you about your right to seek compensation for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, call us at (865) 524-5657 and ask for an appointment to discuss your Knoxville, Maryville, or other East Tennessee slip and fall case.

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