ATLANTA - The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a summary judgment decision by a district court in favor of Sam's Club. The decision was appealed by a customer who was injured after slipping and falling on a slippery substance in the frozen food aisle inside one of Sam's Club stores.
Judges Gerald Bard Tjoflat, Robin S. Rosenbaum, and Kevin C. Newsome ruled per curiam on March 16.
The court concluded the evidence presented by plaintiff Tania Berbridge did not reasonably provide a jury enough information to infer that Sam's Club had any knowledge of the substance on the floor, thereby negating Berbridge's claim of negligence.
For a claim of negligence, the plaintiff "must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it,” the ruling stated.
Because Berbridge did not provide evidence that Sam's Club had actual knowledge of the substance, she needed to prove Sam's had constructive knowledge.
In order to do so, she had to meet two criteria: 1) proving that the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that the business establishment should have known of the condition; and 2) the condition occurred with regularity and was also foreseeable, according to the court's ruling.
The court said Berbridge relied solely on the "length of time" claim.
Neither party disagreed about the material facts of the case, warranting a summary judgment by the court.
Berbridge described the wet spot as “medium size” but “wasn’t that big,” wet but not sticky, and “dark” and “dirty.” She argued that because the spot was dark and dirty it must have been on the ground long enough for the company to know about it.
The court argued that the wet spot “had been on the floor for a sufficient length of time to charge the store owner with constructive knowledge of its presence," according to the decision.