Federal Court in South Carolina Grants Summary Judgment to Grocery Store in Slip and Fall Case

In a South Carolina premises liability case, it is the plaintiff’s burden to prove that a dangerous condition on another’s property caused injury to him or her. The plaintiff must also prove that the defendant either directly caused the condition or that, in the exercise of due diligence, the defendant should have discovered and corrected the condition.

In many slip and fall cases, the defendant will argue that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the plaintiff has not met his or her initial burden of proof. In other words, the defendant asks the court to rule in its favor prior to trial because, even if everything the plaintiff has said in his or her complaint is true, the defendant cannot be held liable under the law. Talking to a lawyer early on and securing evidence such as photographs of the accident scene, video surveillance, and statements from eyewitnesses can be helpful in seeing that the plaintiff has his or her day in court.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case filed in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division, the plaintiff was a woman who filed suit against the defendant grocery store, seeking monetary compensation for a torn meniscus in her knee that she allegedly suffered when she slipped and fell in a “brown substance” (which looked like, and may have been, pudding) on the store’s floor while pushing her shopping cart through the dairy aisle in August 2015 . The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because there was no competent evidence proving that it placed the brown substance on the floor or that it had actual or constructive notice of the allegedly dangerous condition.

Decision of the Court

The federal district court granted the defendant’s motion. Under South Carolina law, a merchant such as the defendant owed customers a duty to exercise ordinary care to keeps its premises reasonably safe, but it was not an insurer of its customers’ safety. In order to a store to be held liable for a customer’s personal injuries, the burden of proof was on the customer to show that either the store created the condition at issue or that it had notice of the condition.

Here, the fact that there was a limited number of customers in the store at the time of the accident and there was no known package in the area at the time left open “multiple possibilities” and did not necessarily trigger liability against the store. To have denied summary judgment to the defendant, the court would have had to build “inferences upon inferences,” which it was not willing to do. Because there was no credible evidence that the store caused the condition or was on notice of it, the store was entitled to judgment as a matter of law in the district court’s opinion.

Call a South Carolina Injury Attorney with Questions

Being represented early on by an effective legal advocate make all the difference in a South Carolina personal injury case. To get started on your claim, call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices today at 864-582-5118 to come in and discuss a slip and fall accident, whether it happened on the job or at another business. Our law firm also handles motor vehicle accident cases, workers’ compensation, nursing home abuse, and social security disability claims. There is no charge for the consultation; we get paid a percentage of your settlement or judgment when your case is completed so no legal fees are collected up front.

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