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ARTICLE ID 161196
Premises liability - Slip and fall - Plaintiff falls on substance in defendant supermarket checkout aisle - Long history of severe rheumatoid arthritis - Fall breaks up auto fusion of wrist - Sympathetic disorder and/or complex pain syndrome.
Barnstable County, MA
In this slip and fall case, the plaintiff, a customer in
the defendant supermarket, contended that the defendant failed to
clean up a spill of an unidentified substance on the floor of the
supermarket and that the plaintiff fell and was injured as a
result. The defendant asserted that it did not nor could have
known that there was a substance on the floor and that the
plaintiffs damages were exaggerated and/or unrelated to the
The plaintiff was shopping on a crowded Saturday in the summer
and lines at the checkouts had backed up so the defendants
customer service manager opened a new register and directed the
plaintiff into the new line. As the plaintiff was walking over to
the register line, she slipped and fell. After the plaintiff
fell, she noticed a series of small spots of dark liquid near a
drink cooler at the entrance to the checkout. The defendant
manager admitted that she had seen people, often children, serve
themselves from the cooler and sometimes spill their drinks on
the floor. The plaintiff contended that, based on where she was
standing at the front of the store, the defendants front end
manager should have seen the substance on the floor and should
have removed it to prevent a slip hazard. Further, the plaintiff
maintained that by stationing drink coolers at the checkouts, the
defendant was promoting self-service and thus, it was foreseeable
that spills would occur.
When the plaintiff, who had a long standing and significant
preexisting history of severe rheumatoid arthritis, fell in the
store, she fell on her right wrist. The plaintiff had previously
experienced an auto-fusion of the right wrist and contended that
the fall broke up the auto-fusion. As a result, the plaintiff
experience increased mobility in the wrist which increased her
pain and developed into Reflex Sympathetic Disorder and/or
complex pain syndrome. The plaintiff had seen her rheumatologist
and hand specialist. He had examined the plaintiff and determined
that the plaintiff had a temporary flare up of her arthritis that
lasted approximately four months. The plaintiff did not call the
witness because the witnesss testimony was beneficial to the
defendant. However, the plaintiff did hire an expert to testify
at trial that the plaintiffs condition was caused by or severely
worsened by the subject accident.
The defendant contended that it had no notice that there was any
substance on the floor. The defendant also asserted that there
was no indication that the plaintiffs theory of customers self-
serving from the cooler was how the substance came to be on the
floor. The defendant pointed to the fact that there was no
evidence that any employee knew there was a spill on the floor,
especially the front end manager. Further, the defendant
contended that, since the aisle had just opened, it was not
likely that customers had been accessing the cooler prior to the
The defendant argued that it did not do anything that caused the
accident. The defendant also called an expert hand surgeon who
confirmed the findings of the plaintiffs treating physicians:
that the plaintiffs preexisting condition had been temporarily
exacerbated for few months, then resolved with no evidence of a
loosening of the auto-fusion and no other problems besides her
ongoing arthritis. The defendant called three witnesses,
including the front end manager, and the store manager. All said
that the spill was confined to an extremely small area and was
difficult to see because it blended in with the floor tiles. The
defendants witnesses testified that, even after the plaintiff
fell and they were looking carefully at the floor, the substance
was difficult to see and that it was definitely not visible when
The jury found no negligence by the defendant.
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