A Macy’s Department Store in Metairie recently became the subject of a premises liability action filed by a customer who reportedly slipped on a rug while shopping in the store.
The plaintiff reported that, in early December of 2013, she tripped and fell on a rug that was placed on the floor. As a result of her fall, the plaintiff claims that she injured her knee in the process. Attorneys for the plaintiff claim that the placement of the rug “created and represented an unreasonable risk of harm,” as well as demonstrating the merchant’s failure to properly inspect the premises and maintain a reasonably safe condition. The plaintiff seeks over $50,000 in compensatory damages.
The plaintiff’s lawsuit falls under the recognized theory of liability known “premises liability.” Premises liability against merchants is recognized in Louisiana and governed by Louisiana Revised Statutes 9:2800.6. This statute provides: “A merchant owes a duty to persons who use his premises to exercise reasonable care to keep his aisles, passageways, and floors in a reasonably safe condition. This duty includes a reasonable effort to keep the premises free of any hazardous conditions which reasonably my give rise to damage.”
In litigating premises liability cases, plaintiffs must prove three central elements of their claim. La. R.S. 9:2800.6 delineates these elements:
- The condition presented an unreasonable risk of harm to the claimant and that risk of harm was reasonably foreseeable.
- The merchant either created or had actual or constructive notice of the condition which caused the damage, prior to the occurrence.
- The merchant failed to exercise reasonable care.
In order to prove a theory of premises liability, the injured plaintiff must first prove that the condition presented an “unreasonable risk of harm.” In determining whether a particular risk of harm is “unreasonable,” courts have acknowledged the fact-intensive nature of this inquiry, noting that the result will differ from case-to-case based on the facts peculiar to each given scenario. Even so, courts will generally focus on the potential for harm that the condition poses, and whether that risk of harm was foreseeable and avoidable to a reasonable person under similar circumstances.
Plaintiffs in premises liability actions must then prove that the merchant had notice of the hazardous condition that gave rise to their injury. “Actual notice” is not necessarily required here, but instead, a plaintiff may prevail on a theory of premises liability where the merchant had “constructive notice” of the hazardous condition. La. R.S. 9:2800.6 defines “constructive notice” as when “the condition existed for such a period of time that it would have been discovered if the merchant had exercised reasonable care.” So, in a situation where a merchant had actual notice of a hazardous condition, or, in the exercise of reasonable care, the merchant should’ve known of the hazardous condition, plaintiff will likely be able to prove this element of their claim.
Finally, the plaintiff must prove that the employer failed to exercise “reasonable care” when dealing with this hazardous condition. La. R.S. 9:2800.6 provides some guidance when deciphering the meaning of “reasonable care.” Specifically, the statute states that “[i]n determining reasonable care, the absence of a written or verbal uniform cleanup or safety procedure is insufficient, alone, to prove failure to exercise reasonable care.” Perhaps a uniform safety procedure alongside hourly or semi-hourly sweeps of the premises to find hazardous conditions (wet floors, objects in the aisles that may trip customers, etc.) would suffice for “reasonable care.” But again, this is another fact-intensive inquiry which differs from case-to-case.
The attorneys at Broussard, David & Moroux have extensive experience litigating premises liability lawsuits for clients injured in slip and fall accidents. Our attorneys have years of developing skilled legal theories that provide just compensation for our clients injured in slip and falls and maximizing potential recovery from the courts.
Broussard, David & Moroux offers a complimentary consultation to all prospective clients. For questions, call us at 888-337-2323 (toll-free) or 337-233-2323 (local). You can also contact us only for answers to your questions or to schedule your consultation.