Third District Court Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of Building Owner and Maintenance Contractor in Slip-and-Fall Case
In Wilson-Greene v. City of Miami, 42 Fla. L. Weekly D237, Case No. 3D14-3094 (Fla 3d DCA 2017), the Third District Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the building owner and the maintenance company in a slip-and-fall accident case, finding that neither owed a legal duty to the plaintiff and that neither had constructive notice of the spilled substance.
A finding of liability against a defendant in a tort action requires that there be a duty by the defendant to conform to a standard of conduct and a breach by the defendant of that duty. The duty of a building owner to a visitor on its premises for business purposes is to “maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn the invitee of latent perils which are known or should be known to the owner but which are not known to the invitee or which, by the exercise of due care could be known to him.” In a slip-and-fall case, the plaintiff must also show that the defendant in control of the premises had either actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition.
The slip-and-fall accident occurred when Plaintiff slipped on soup while coming out of the elevator of a building owned by the City of Miami. The City’s contract with Vista Maintenance Services, Inc. provided that Visa was to “pay close attention to the 3-story lobby area” and not “underestimate the lobby requirements…as this is a critical area of importance.” The contract further stated that Vista was to “police [the] area and rearrange furniture on a daily basis.” Plaintiff argued that the contractual language created a duty for Vista to constantly patrol and supervise the area where the accident occurred. The court disagreed, finding that the contract did not require Vista to constantly patrol the building. Furthermore, the court found that the language of contract was insufficient to create a heightened duty of care for either the City or Vista.
The court found that neither the City nor Vista had actual notice of the presence of the green soup on the floor since no one saw it spill on the floor. The court also found that neither the City nor Vista had constructive notice of the soup. In particular, to create an issue of fact as to the defendants’ constructive notice of a dangerous condition, the length of time that the condition existed must be considered. In Wilson-Greene, a finding of constructive notice of the dangerous condition would require an impermissible stacking of inferences. Thus, as there was no issue of fact as to constructive notice of the spilled substance, the court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the defendants.