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Eastern District of Pennsylvania Rules in Favor of Store Owner in Slip and Fall Case

In Harrell v. Pathmark, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that a store owner was not negligent in slip and fall. 2015 U.S. Dist., LEXIS 23154* (E.D. Pa. 2015). The plaintiff in this matter, Ms. Harrell, was severely injured when she slipped on a wet floor in the Philadelphia Pathmark Store.

Under Pennsylvania law, in order for a store owner to be held liable in a slip and fall action, the owner must have known about, or by the exercise of reasonable care would have discovered, a condition that involved an unreasonable risk of harm. This standard requires the plaintiff to prove that the owner either played a role in creating the dangerous condition or that the owner had actual or constructive notice of the harmful condition.

Constructive notice must be determined on a case-by-case basis because it is drawn from “the existence of facts and circumstances that a party had a duty to take notice of.” The relevant factors courts consider when determining constructive notice include: the nature of the dangerous condition; its location on the premises; its cause (or likely cause); the opportunity of the defendant to remedy the condition; and most importantly, the time elapsing between when the dangerous condition arose and when the accident occurred.” The amount of time plays such a critical role in determining notice because if the dangerous condition only existed for a very short time before the incident then, even by the exercise of reasonable care, the owner would not discover the hazardous condition.

The Court determined that Ms. Harrell was not able to provide any evidence of how the water got onto the floor, how long the water had been on the floor, or if Pathmark employees had any knowledge of the water. Furthermore, the fact that Pathmark did not follow a set cleaning or inspection schedule did not provide the sufficient evidence of constructive notice. Therefore, due to the lack of evidence presented, the Court concluded that Pathmark did not have constructive notice of the hazardous condition, and thus, was not liable for her injuries.

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