Slip And Fall Case Goes Down The Drain When Plaintiff Cannot Show Actual Or Constructive Knowledge Of Wet Floor
On a rainy day, Barbara Price entered the Waterworks office to pay her bill. Upon entering, she slipped on water in the lobby and fell injuring her leg and back. In Price v. Waterworks District #1, et al., Mrs. Price sued the Waterworks and the Parish government for her injuries. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment (pdf), arguing that there was no genuine issue of material fact that would preclude the granting of judgment in their favor. According to the defendants, both sides agreed that: it was raining when Mrs. Price entered the building; the defendants did not have a written inspection policy regarding inspecting the condition of the floors; there was no “wet floor” warning sign placed inside the building; Mrs. Price slipped on water inside the building; and, no one reported water on the floor prior to her slip and fall. The defendants also argued that Mrs. Price failed to meet her burden under Louisiana public entity premises liability law of establishing that the wet floor was actually or constructively known to the defendants and that they had failed to timely act to correct the dangerous condition (pdf).
The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment and Mrs. Price appealed, arguing that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to the defendants’ actual or constructive knowledge of the wet floor. Mrs. Price claimed that the fact that it was raining and that the defendants did not have an inspection policy for the floors was sufficient to create an issue for trial and avoid summary judgment. The appellate court disagreed, citing Louisiana Supreme Court precedent that the absence of an inspection plan does not suggest that an employee of a public entity has actual knowledge of a dangerous condition. Accordingly, the trial court was correct in holding that defendants’ lack of an inspection policy for the floors did not prevent the granting of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The appellate court further noted that Mrs. Price had not shown that the defendants’ had constructive knowledge of the wet floors by pointing to facts that would support an inference that the defendants had actual knowledge of the wet floor. Therefore, the summary judgment was affirmed.
Take-Away: Simply because a plaintiff slips on a wet floor will not impose strict liability on a public entity. Furthermore, unless the plaintiff can make a prima facie showing of the public entity or property owner’s actual or constructive knowledge of the wet floor, Louisiana courts will not hesitate to grant summary judgment in favor of a public entity.