PREMISES LIABILITY DEFENSE VERDICTS

In March 2015, partner Bart Ridley and associate Heather Bocell secured a jury finding of “no negligence” in favor of a defendant grocery store.  The suit filed in a Tarrant County district court alleged that plaintiff slipped and fell in a puddle of soda on the floor adjacent to the store’s produce area.  Plaintiff sought to establish that because the substance had a “sticky” texture, it had been on the floor for an extended period of time, and therefore defendant was negligent for failing to conduct regular inspections to identify such hazards on the floor. While the substance on the floor and plaintiff’s fall was obstructed from view by a store display, the store surveillance video was used to establish that multiple persons had passed though the same location without incident prior to plaintiff’s fall, and allowed the jury to conclude that the store operator was not responsible for plaintiff’s fall.

In April 2015, partner Bart Ridley and associate Tiffany Heeg were able to secure a unanimous “no negligence” jury finding in favor the same defendant grocery store operator. This suit was filed in a county court at law in Tarrant County. Plaintiff went to the store to pick a few last minute items to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.  Plaintiff alleged that as she was standing in a long line in the check out area, she slipped and fell in an accumulation of water and ice near a refrigerated cooler displaying bagged ice.  Plaintiff took the position that because the ice had been on the floor long enough to melt, and because of the proximity to the check out stands, the defendant’s employees should have known of the substance on the floor and failed to take any action to warn her of the danger.  Because of the number of customers in the store at the time of the incident, the store surveillance video did not capture plaintiff’s fall or the substance on the floor.  However, the surveillance video did illustrate for the jury that the ice was likely spilled on the floor by another customer only a short time before plaintiff’s fall.  The jury took less than an hour to deliberate and conclude the store operator was not responsible for plaintiff’s fall.

In May 2015, partner Bart Ridley and associate Heather Bocell successfully defended a department store at trial in a suit filed in a Bell County district court.  Plaintiff, an employee of another retailer in the Killeen Mall, slipped and fell as she walked through the department store after visiting the mall food court.  Plaintiff alleged that the defendant retailer failed to conduct regular inspections of the store, and because of the high customer traffic associated with the adjacent food court, the defendant’s employees should have known the liquid substance was present on the floor.  Plaintiff underwent two surgeries on her shoulder following the incident which she claimed were necessitated by injuries sustained in the fall.  Again the store surveillance video did not capture the plaintiff’s fall, but the video was key evidence in illustrating for the jury the actions taken by store employees and customers in the time leading up to the incident.  The jury again concluded that the store was “not negligent” and the Court entered a judgment in favor of the defendant.

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