Do Warning Signs Save Owners from Liability in Slip and Fall Cases?

slip and fall

You are walking down the aisle of your favorite superstore.  Suddenly you find yourself face down on the floor.   You did not notice that the floor was wet, and you slipped and fell.  You feel a sharp pain in your wrist.  You later learn that your wrist is broken.  This is a classic scenario in a slip and fall case.  Under premises liability law the owner of the superstore may very well be liable to the injured customer if the owner new or should have know about the wet floor, and had a reasonable amount of time to remove the hazard.  However, instead of removing a hazard, what if the property owner put up a warning sign, yet a customer still is injured?  Is the property owner still liable?  Well, it depends.

A Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers explains that the legal basis behind slip and fall cases personal injury cases, also referred to as premises liability claims, is that premises owners have the  responsibility to make sure that people who enter their property remain safe.  While we often think of businesses when we think about slip and fall cases, or other types of premises liability cases, the owner of private property also has a duty to keep visitors safe from known hazards.  A victim has a valid claim if it is determined that the property owner was negligent.  A property own can be negligent by failing to remove a hazard, or by failing to adequately warn of a hazard.

Adequate Warning

A property owner may escape liability if he or she provided a warning that reasonably provided you with notification of the hazard.  Suppose you are walking down the aisle of a store.  There is a huge yellow sign with clear black text stating "wet floor."  Directly behind the sign is a spill.  Instead of walking around the wet area, you ignore the clear warning and walk through the wet area.  You then slip and fall and are injured.  Is the store liable? Probably not.  You knew of the hazard.  You knew the risk.  Still you decided to walk in the wet area.

Inadequate Warning

While in some cases a sign may preclude a premises owner from slip and fall liability, this is not always the case.  The store owner or premises owner is still negligent and, therefore, responsible for your injury if the warning sign was inadequate.  For example, suppose a store manager mopped up a spill in the rear of the store, leaving the floor wet.   He the posted a "wet floor" warning sign at the front entrance of the store instead of at the spot that was wet.  A customer then slips and falls.  Would the store owner be liable?  Probably.

A warning sign needs to be visible and strategically positioned so that people can read it and know the location of the hazard in order to have the opportunity to avoid the hazard.  Otherwise, a proper warning was not provided.

Suppose there is an obvious hazard of which the premises owner is aware, yet the owner did not remove the hazard or post a warning sign.  If someone is injured, should that person be at least contributorily negligent for failing to take measures to avoid the obvious hazard?

Mounier, A. 2013, Do Warning Signs Save Owners from Liability in Slip and Fall Cases?.

Tags: Slip And Fall, Premise Liability, Personal Injury,