In order to win a Florida slip and fall case, you generally need to present evidence showing that you were injured and that the injury was caused by negligence by the person or entity you are suing. While this evidence is often provided by the injured person or third parties such as doctors, hospitals, financial service providers and police officers, it can also come from the defendant in any case. Discovery is the term for the pre-trial process through which parties to a lawsuit can obtain a wide range of evidence and information from an opponent.
The breadth and depth of discovery is not endless, however, as Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals recently pointed out in Publix Supermarkets v. Santos.
Ms. Santos was allegedly injured in a slip and fall accident at a Publix Supermarket in Miami. According to Santos, the accident happened near a kiosk where she slipped on “old wet spinach or some other transitory substance” on the floor and was injured as a result of the fall. She later sued Publix, alleging two counts of negligence and claiming that the kiosk – used to conduct in-store cooking demonstrations – created a dangerous condition at the store.
During the discovery phase of the litigation, Santos sought and obtained information from Publix on all slip and fall accidents occurring at the store in the previous three years. The evidence provided showed that no such accidents had happened that the specific store during the relevant time period. Santos then sought all incident reports for accidents near kiosks in any Publix store in Florida. The trial court denied the company’s motion for a protective order barring it from having to provide the requested evidence.
On appeal, however, the Third District found that Santos was not entitled to the information. “We grant Publix’s petition for writ of certiorari because the trial court’s discovery order gives the respondent carte blanche to irrelevant discovery,” the court concluded.
Under Section 768.0755 Florida Statutes, a person allegedly injured in a slip and fall accident involving a transitory substance must prove that the business establishment where the accident occurred “had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it.” Although the law does not define the term “business establishment,” the court said the plain and ordinary meaning of the term was limited to the actual Publix store where the accident occurred, not the overall group of supermarkets scattered throughout the state.
Given this interpretation of the statute, the court said information about accidents at other stores was not relevant to establishing whether the operators of the Miami store knew of any dangerous condition on the premises before Santos fell. “Thus, Santos’ discovery requests of accidents at kiosks located in other Publix stores within the State of Florida are no longer proper,” the court concluded.
It is important to keep in mind that this ruling was limited to the type of evidence that Santos may obtain and did not extend to the actual merits of her case, which are yet to be litigated.
If you were recently injured in an accident at a place of business and are interested in pursuing a claim against the property owner of the premises where you were injured, call the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine today. We represent clients throughout the region, including in Hialeah, Boca Raton, and Pompano Beach. Call the firm’s Ft. Lauderdale offices at 800-747-3733 or fill out an on-line “Contact Us” form.
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