In order for a store to be responsible for a fall by a customer, the business owner must have known or should have known of the unsafe condition that led to the shopper’s fall.
This is often referred to in the legal world as “notice”. The injured person must show that the business was at fault for the dangerous condition that caused the injury. In a premises liability case, such notice given to the defendant can be either actual or constructive. Usually, this means that the injured customer must show that the business failed to correct the dangerous condition in a timely manner. For example, a spill on an aisle in a supermarket should not be there for a long time. If store employees are made aware of the mess but do not clean it up or place adequate warnings, such as a cone, to notify customers, the supermarket owner would likely be at fault.
However, there are exceptions to the general rule that requires notice.
In NJ, the Law recognizes the Mode of Operation Rule. This rule actually permits an inference of negligence to be made when there was a risk of injury that is inherent in the way a particular business is conducted. This is especially relevant if the plaintiff can prove that a pattern of incidents has occurred due to the nature of the business. The injured customer still has the responsibility to show that the dangerous condition was present, but unlike the general rule, it is not necessary to prove that the business had notice (either actual or constructive) of the condition. When the Mode of Operations Rule is applied, the burden of proof shifts to the business owner to demonstrate that they exercised due care and are not at fault. If the defendant is able to show that they acted as a reasonably prudent man, then he may avoid liability. An example of a case where the Mode of Operation rule could apply would be a supermarket that has a self-service area for items such as vegetables or produce, where it is inevitable that loose produce, such as grapes would fall on the flour while being selected and handled by customers.
This Mode of Operation Rule is favorable to plaintiffs in New Jersey for bringing their case forward. The purpose of this Rule is to make premises safer for patrons. It is designed to make sure that businesses are responsible for maintaining their property in a safe condition for all customers. Stores should not have spills on the floor for a prolonged period of time without cleanup.
Check out this link for some great workplace design solutions to prevent falls:
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, you may be entitled to a substantial recovery! At Druckman & Hernandez, we have concentrated our practice on injury cases for the past 20 years. If you have any questions about an injury claim, please call us for a FREE consultation at 908-353-5850.