Slip and Fall – A change in floor surface

In the State of Florida, business owners can sometimes be held responsible for a slip and fall. Slip and fall cases are governed under premises liability laws, which determine the obligations that a property owner or property occupier owes to visitors. A property owner can be held liable for loss if the property owner breached a legal duty and the breach caused the fall to happen. One common cause of falls is a change in floor surface.

A change in floor surface can result in a slip and fall if the change creates an unsafe condition. For example, a person who is walking on a tile floor could trip when the tile transitions to a carpeted area, especially if there is also a change in elevation between the two surfaces. A property owner could be liable for injuries resulting from this type of fall, but liability depends upon whether a plaintiff can prove his case.

In Florida, the laws have evolved in recent years regarding a property owner’s liability for a slip and fall. In a 2001 case, Owens v. Publix Supermarkets, the Florida Supreme Court held a property owner or operator had the burden of proving that they had exercised reasonable care in maintaining the property in a reasonably safe condition.

In 2002, Florida Statute 768.0710 was enacted to shift the burden of proof. The statute required a victim to demonstrate a premises owner or operator acted negligently by failing to exercise reasonable care. However, this statute was supplanted by Florida Statute 768.0755 in 2010. This law placed a greater burden of proof on plaintiffs in certain slip and fall cases.

A change in flooring surface is one of the most common reasons for a slip and fall claim against a property owner. People who are walking do not expect the surface of the floor to suddenly change. When it does, a fall can happen. In order for a fall victim to recover compensation, victims must prove that the property owner was aware of the danger.

For example, if a visitor to a business is walking on a wood floor and a hazard is created because the wood changes to tile, the visitor could recover compensation only upon demonstrating that the fall occurred due to a negligently-designed unsafe floor transition.