Edwards v. Hy-Vee, Inc. – Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit Tossed

In any North Carolina slip-and-fall lawsuit, it is essential that the person injured prove the property owner/ manager had either actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard. That means either the owner knew about it because the owner created it or someone informed the owner about it or the owner should have known because it had existed for such a length of time that it should have been discovered in the course of exercising due care. watermelon

If this element is not satisfied, the slip-and-fall lawsuit will not succeed.

This was the case in Edwards v. Hy-Vee, Inc., recently before the Nebraska Supreme Court. This was a situation in which a woman slipped and fell on a piece of watermelon, suffering injuries as a result. 

According to court records of the case, plaintiff was a customer at a grocery store who suffered personal injuries when she slipped and fell backward on a piece of watermelon.

Approximately 6 feet from where the customer/ plaintiff fell, there was a man handing out watermelon samples. However, there was reportedly no indication that the watermelon on the floor had been there for any period of time.

Plaintiff sued the grocery store, alleging negligence that resulted in her fall.

She asserted the company’s “mode of operation” created the foundation of constructive knowledge. She asserted the company knew or should have known the floor was wet and that the wet area was a danger to customers. Her daughter noted a watermelon seed on her shoe and the her husband picked up a piece of what looked to be watermelon from the floor.

Plaintiff argued that this was a high-traffic area in which the man was giving out samples. However, she could not say how long the watermelon piece had been on the floor.

Because there was reportedly no genuine issue of material fact as to whether the store had created or had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant. The court ruled that just because the man was giving out samples in a high-traffic area did not on its own create a dangerous condition.

Plaintiff appealed, and that appeal was considered by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The state supreme court considered whether the district court made a mistake in finding that as a matter of law, the grocery store didn’t create or have knowledge of the hazardous condition. Plaintiff argued that the store created a dangerous situation by allowing a man to dole out samples of watermelon to customers in the store.

In affirming the trial court’s decision, the state supreme court looked back on a number of other recent decisions, which included:

  • Chelberg v. Guitars & Cadillacs – A patron at a nightclub slipped and fell in a clear liquid 4 feet from a trough of water filled with ice and bottles of beer. Evidence showed the bartender usually pulled out a bottle and dried with a towel before handing it out, but sometimes, customers pulled out bottles themselves, dripping water onto the floor. The court ruled a finder of fact could hold that the bar was liable for the slip-and-fall hazard created by letting customers to take out their own dripping beer bottles.
  • Derr v. Columbus Convention Ctr.5 – A hotel guest slipped-and-fell on ice on the last step of a stairway where an ice machine was located some 4 feet away. There was no evidence to suggest hotel employees were actively involved in spilling the ice and the most reasonable explanation was another guest caused the spill. There was no evidence hotel employees created or knew about the ice spill.

The court found the ruling in the latter case was more applicable here, and affirmed summary judgment in favor of defense, finding there was no evidence of constructive knowledge.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Edwards v. Hy-Vee, Inc., July 22, 2016, Nebraska Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Estate of Smith v. Salvesen – Guesthouse Fall Lawsuit, July 18, 2016, Asheville Slip-and-Fall Injury Lawyer

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