Publix Wins Reversal of $1.5 Million Miami Slip and Fall Verdict

Every year hundreds of thousands of tort lawsuits are filed. With Slip and fall cases, it’s not always the best idea to file a lawsuit.  A majority, about 95 to 96 percent, are settled pretrial.

Accidents happen, and often injuries are the result. When the accident was caused by something or someone outside of your control, you may wonder if you have any options for legal recourse. In this case, it’s necessary to prove that someone else – usually the property owner – is liable for your injuries (Premises Liability). The first two questions to ask are

  1. Who are the potentially liable parties?
  2. Were those parties negligent?

This means that the parties knew about something that could potentially cause an injury and failed to remove the dangerous object.

In the case of Publix Super Markets v Jessie Bellaiche, you will see the process of determining the verdict of slip and fall cases.

Publix Super Markets Inc v Bellaiche

On August 11, 2010, Bellaiche, a 70-year-old woman, was shopping at Publix with her husband John Basilone. After doing her shopping and arriving at the checkout station, Bellaiche realized that she had forgotten to put a couple of items that she wanted in her shopping cart. Basilone went to retrieve the items for her. When he came back, Bellaiche was sitting in a chair crying and Basilone noticed a man standing nearby with a mop in his hand. While Basilone was getting the last-minute items, Bellaiche had gone to look for her husband and slip and fell on some water, which she hadn’t seen beforehand.

No one testified that the mop was wet or that the employee had been using it, either in that aisle or anywhere in the store. The manager, Paul Fournier, testified that at the time of the accident, Publix was using dry rayon mops to mop the floor – not pre-soaked cotton mops that would create puddles of water. In addition, Fournier testified that there was only one custodian on duty at the time and according to video surveillance, he was only using a broom and dustpan.

As a result of the incident, Bellaiche suffered a shoulder injury which she underwent surgery for about one month later.

The jury returned a verdict for Bellaiche and awarded her over $1.5 million in damages.

  • past medical bills leading up to trial ($60,356.22)
  • pain and suffering from the date of her accident to the end of trial ($500,000), and
  • future pain and suffering ($1,000,000)

A Florida appellate court later reversed the verdict against Publix Super Market Inc, finding there was no evidence the supermarket knew about a wet floor. Bellaiche had to prove that Publix had actual knowledge of a dangerous condition created by a transient foreign substance that caused Bellaiche to slip and fall. Although Bellaiche alleged the man standing with the mop caused the water to be on the floor, it wasn’t actual knowledge. Thus, based on the evidence presented, a reasonable jury couldn’t have found that Publix had knowledge of the water that caused Bellaiche to slip and fall.

Although it is very unfortunate that Ms. Bellaiche was injured, this case proves that a slip and fall case in Florida needs to have evidence of negligence to be brought to trial.

If you have recently had a slip and fall case in Florida and are unsure of if you may have a case or not, contact SteinLaw to speak with an attorney.

Brandon Stein

Chief Executive Officer

Brandon Stein, the owner and founder of SteinLaw, is a Florida-based trial attorney who focuses on personal injury cases such as wrongful death, car accident, slip and fall, and a variety of other civil litigation areas. Being a former associate at a prominent Florida Defense Law Firm, Brandon Stein understands the strategy and tactics...[READ BIO]