Everyone has seen various “wet floor” warning signs, such as foldable signs that stand upright on the floor or orange warning cones. Some slip and fall accident victims in stores, restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses injured in slip and fall and trip and fall accidents assume that the presence of these warning signs are sufficient to insulate the owner of the premises from liability for dangerous slip and fall and trip and fall accidents.
However, the placement of a wet floor sign is not only not dispositive toward the question of liability for such an accident, the sign itself can pose its own obstacle that may cause a trip and fall accident. Georgia courts have found that the placement of a wet floor sign or orange cone alone does not necessarily exhaust a property owner’s obligations toward the public.
Georgia’s highest court has held that a jury may find that a yellow foldable wet floor sign itself may cause a trip and fall accident for which a property owner may be liable under premises liability law. In the case of American Multi-Cinema, Inc. Et Al. V. Brown et al., the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that a jury could find that setting up an A-frame “Wet Floor” sign over a small spill 10 to 20 paces outside the auditorium of a movie theater did not preclude a finding of liability. The personal injury victim in Brown tripped over the sign that had collapsed and suffered serious injury.
The court reasoned that it was predictable that the sign might be kicked over when a massive flow of pedestrians came filing out of the auditorium, and that it was also reasonable for a jury to conclude that the trip and fall victim might not see the warning sign when coming out of the auditorium. The court rejected the cinema’s defense that the use of a warning sign insulated a business owner from liability for a trip and fall or slip and fall.
The use of expert testimony regarding the appropriateness of steps taken to warn the public or make the conditions safe can play an important role in determining liability. The parents of the injury victim offered expert testimony that the type of “Wet Floor” sign the personal injury victim tripped over collapses easily when it comes into contact with pedestrian traffic and that it is standard knowledge in the retail industry that this type of sign tends to collapse. The expert also testified that when these signs collapse they become a hazard that can result in trip and fall accidents which makes them inappropriate for use when there will be a flow of a large crowd of pedestrians. The expert suggested a sturdier sign could have been employed or the spill could have been mopped up, thereby eliminating the need for a warning sign.
The court in Brown articulated the elements that must be established in a trip and fall or slip and fall case as follows:
- The defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard; and
- The plaintiff, despite exercising ordinary care for his or her own personal safety, lacked knowledge of the hazard due to the defendant’s actions or to conditions under the defendant’s control.
Under Georgia case law, slip and fall cases and trip and fall cases tend to turn on their individual facts that will be evaluated by a jury. Our experienced slip and fall and trip and fall law firm carefully evaluates the hazard that caused a serious or even fatal fall and the measures taken by the landowner to warn patrons or make the condition safe. It is important to keep in mind that a business owner has an obligation to take reasonable precautions and mere posting of a “wet floor” sign may not be sufficient. Our experienced Georgia trip and fall lawyers conduct a careful investigation if our client is injured in a fall accident that includes examining measures taken to make the condition safe or warn of the hazard. Factors that may be relevant in evaluating remedial measures to warn of a tripping hazard may include, but is not limited to the following:
- Level of foot traffic
- Lighting in the area of the hazard
- Stability and visibility of any sign or barrier
- Location of the sign in relation to the hazard
- Size of the area covered by the hazard
- Duration of time that hazard has been present
- Opportunity of business to take more effective measures to warn or make the hazard safe
If you or a loved one suffers personal injury in a trip and fall or slip and fall accident, the experienced Georgia trip and fall accident lawyers at Montlick and Associates have been representing fall accident victims in Atlanta and throughout Georgia for over 39 years. We use our best efforts in investigating and pursuing our clients’ personal injury claims as part of our commitment to developing a reputation as the best Georgia personal injury law firm.
Our Atlanta slip and fall attorneys and Atlanta trip and fall lawyers are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.