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Premises Liability - Trip and fall - Missing floor tile - Foot injury - Wrongful death claim with death occurring four years post-incident - Trivial defect doctrine.

Dutchess County

In this premises liability case, the 46 year old female plaintiff contended that she tripped and fell while exiting the defendant’s retail store as a result of a hazardous condition. The plaintiff subsequently died prior to trial and her family continued the suit, attempting to amend the complaint to a wrongful death claim. The court denied the plaintiff’s amended complaint and the trial proceeded on the issues originally claimed. The defendant argued that the defect on the premises was de minimis and did not constitute a hazard.

The evidence revealed that the decedent was exiting the defendant’s U-Haul store when she alleged tripped and fell as a result of a defect in the floor. The plaintiff maintained that part of a floor tile was missing near the shoulder of the door. The plaintiff alleged that the decedent had pointed out the defect two days earlier to store personnel and, therefore, the defendant U-Haul store was on notice of the defect.

The defendant contended that the missing piece of floor tile was a trivial defect and de minimis under the trivial defect doctrine.

The plaintiff alleged that the decedent suffered a foot injury due to the fall, which occurred on October 29, ________. The decedent died in July ________. Three days prior to trial, the plaintiff filed a notice to amend the complaint to include a claim of wrongful death. The notice to amend was denied.

The plaintiff presented no experts. The defense presented a safety expert to testify that the alleged defect was, indeed, trivial and did not constitute a tripping hazard.

The jury found for the defendant.

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