The Shopkeeper’s Slip and Fall Notice Requirement

By Tim Brandenburg

Many Texans believe a store is always responsible for any injuries caused when a patron slips and falls on an unreasonably dangerous surface created by a slippery substance on the floor.  However, Texas law does not hold a shopkeeper liable for injuries to a customer unless, among other things, the store either knew or should have known the substance was on the floor before the fall.

An injured person can prove a store knew or should have known the substance was on the floor in one of three ways: 1) with evidence that the store’s employees put the substance on the floor, 2) with evidence that the store’s employees knew the substance was on the floor and negligently failed to remove it or 3) with evidence that the substance was on the floor for so long that, in the exercise of ordinary care, it should have been discovered and removed (the “time-notice rule”).

In a large number of slip and fall cases, the injured party must rely on the time-notice rule to prove the store had knowledge of the condition’s existence.  Whether sufficient time existed for the condition to have been discovered and cleaned up is a question of fact, so the specific facts in each individual case are critical in proving the store had notice.  For example, Texas case law has previously held that: 1) a partially melted piece of ice on the floor is not sufficient to give notice; 2) a six-pack soda ring on the floor for 30 to 45 seconds is sufficient to give notice when it was near a store employee; 3) dirt in macaroni salad lying in a heavily traveled store aisle is not sufficient to give notice; and 4) litter that could have been on stairs for 10 to 12 hours following a late-afternoon rush is not sufficient to give notice. In fact, there is an entire body of case law dealing with banana peels left on floors!

Because it is so important to prove a store had notice of an unreasonably dangerous condition, post-injury investigation is vital to proving any slip and fall case.  This is why it is so important that an injured person seek legal representation as soon as possible after an injury to protect his or her rights.

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