Slip on Floor: Need More Than Speculation on Floor Condition
Each year, many people are injured after falling on slippery floors. Although floors may be unreasonably slippery, a recent Indiana Court of Appeals case emphasizes that an injured plaintiff needs to be able to provide more than his or her own speculation as to the cause of the fall in order to establish a genuine issue of an unreasonably slick floor at trial. In Maxfield v. Women’s Health Partnership, P.C. et al. (May 7, 2013), Ms. Maxfield slipped and hit her head as she fell to the floor in an examination room at a doctor’s office. Ms. Maxfield and her husband sued the doctor’s office and its cleaning company alleging that the doctor’s office employees were negligent in ignoring or failing to discover the hazard and in failing to warn Ms. Maxfield to keep her rubber-soled shoes on, and that the cleaning company was negligent in over-buffing or over-waxing the floors. The cleaning company filed a motion for summary judgment, and the doctor’s office was allowed to join the motion. In the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment for the defendants, the court noted that Ms. Maxfield did not offer any facts supporting her theory that the floors were over-buffed or over-waxed other than her own speculation from her observation that the floor looked shiny.
In Indiana, the general rule is that negligence liability cannot be inferred by mere speculation as to the cause of a fall. In furtherance of this rule, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined that a floor could appear shiny for a number of reasons besides being over-waxed or over-buffed and therefore the trial court was correct in finding Ms. Maxfield’s opinion as to the cause of her fall was based on speculation and not enough to raise a genuine issue at trial.
This recent Indiana Court of Appeals case highlights the importance of evidence beyond the injured party’s speculation in slip-and-fall cases. While personal observation is important, it often cannot be the sole evidence relied on by an injured party to show that a floor was unreasonably slick. If you have questions about a slip-and-fall situation you were in, feel free to contact our attorneys for specific advice on your circumstance.