Sidewalk Slip and Fall
Slipping and falling on a sidewalk… we’ve all probably been there once or twice in our lives. Most times, we go away uninjured and continue walking along. But, what if something is on the sidewalk that creates a dangerous situation for injuries? This is what happened in the case Miami Dade County v. Wanda Jones from November 2017. Keep reading to find out what happened and who was found at fault for this incident.
Ms. Jones was visiting a barbecue stand that was owned by a sports club. The food stand was on a public sidewalk owned by Miami-Dade County. A good amount of grease accumulated on the sidewalk from cooking the food. Ms. Jones slipped and fell on the greasy sidewalk and suffered injuries. She then sued the county and the sports club for her sidewalk slip and fall. The basis was that the sports club created the dangerous situation, and the county negligently maintained the sidewalk.
How could the county know about the grease on the sidewalk? Well, there was a stain nearby that could have indicated frequent accumulation of the grease in this one spot. Also, Ms. Jones claimed that as part of inspections/permits for places that serve food (which are the county’s duty) the dangerous grease should have become apparent. But, during the trial, Ms. Jones was asked about this in several ways from county attorneys and unable to provide solid evidence.
Specifically, she conceded during the trial that the county did not cause the grease for her sidewalk slip and fall. She also conceded that the county did not have actual knowledge of the grease during her fall. She also admitted that she did not know how long the grease was on the ground (although she did seem to think that it was recent). She also could not say with certainty if the stain on the ground was caused by grease. Finally, evidence showed at the trial revealed that no one else had ever had a problem with grease on the sidewalk.
Additionally, Ms. Jones was unable to present any evidence that the county was aware of the dangerous sidewalk. Specifically, there was no evidence that suggested there was grease on the sidewalk during county inspections of the food establishment, which would have made the county aware of the problem. There was also no evidence that suggested inspections were conducted as a result of a grease spill or that anyone else had ever reported an issue with grease on the sidewalk prior to Ms. Jones’ accident.
Although there was a lack of evidence, as described, the court still found the sports club and the county liable (50% fault for each) of failing to maintain a safe sidewalk. Miami-Dade County then filed a motion for a directed verdict and a new trial on the grounds that there was no evidence that the county had any notice of the dangerous condition. They also contended that the trial court erred by permitting Ms. Jones to introduce ordinances and other evidence to attempt to prove that the county had notice of the greasy sidewalk. The trial court denied the county’s post-trial motions and the county appealed.
What’s the takeaway from this case? No matter how big or small of a case you think you have, it’s ALWAYS smart to contact an attorney. Despite the dearth of evidence in this case, the plaintiff was able to get an outcome she desired. Contact SteinLaw if you think you may be in a similar situation to see if we can help.