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As an experienced Chicago injury attorney, prospective clients often consult with me after "slipping and falling" in the entrance area of a store, restaurant or banquet facility. They usually state that the area was wet from tracked in water from rain or snow. Blame is placed upon the owner of the property for not mopping the floor, providing floor mats or erecting signs. On the surface they have a good argument but unfortunately they have no legal basis to file suit seeking compensation for their injuries.
Historically our courts have taken the position that liability will not be imposed upon a property owner for a natural occurring condition which they did not cause. Therefore there is no legal duty upon these Individuals to clean up the water. To a layperson this rule of law makes absolutely no sense. To make matters worse, if the property owner voluntarily makes an effort to clean up the water and does a poor job he can be held liable for a "slip and fall".
Given the fact that we all prefer to walk upon dry surfaces , the courts and state legislature have taken some initial steps to change the law to induce or require property owners to clean their sidewalks and mop their entrance way. These rules know as "Good Samaritan" laws immunize property owners from negligence lawsuits. Local municipal cities including Chicago have passed rules requiring owners to clear snow or face a stiff fine.
If one is injured in the interior of a store, restaurant or other place of business the liability of the business owner requires a completely different analysis. The issue in this type of slip and fall case is whether the blamed condition which caused the fall was present for a sufficient period of time to put the owner on notice to clean it up. A good example is as follows:
“A person is shopping at the grocery store and falls as a result of a spill of oil from a broken jar of olives. The olives may have fallen as a result of the actions of another shopper who handled the jar. The issue is whether the store was on notice of the broken jar and failed to clean it up in a timely fashion. Did someone point out the condition to the store manager or did the store fail to have a safety practice of inspecting its aisles at regular time intervals?”
Obviously, there is no liability upon the store if the jar of olives fell in minute one and the injured fell upon them in minute two. The law does not impose a duty upon store owners to insure the safety of its patrons by having an employee standing at attention, waiting for the jar to hit the floor. Such a duty would be economically unreasonable.
The law usually imposes a higher duty upon the grocery store owner for "slip and fall" injuries in the produce section of a grocery store. The reason is that it is commonly known that produce will fall from bins, lettuce and banana peels will hit the floor. Therefore, these areas of the store require matting and constant attention.
As you can see the mere fact that a person falls down in a place of business does not necessarily make the owner responsible for their slip and fall injuries.