Thursday, January 21, 2021

A Defective Condition Arising 31 Seconds Before the Plaintiff Fell Is Not Enough Time to Impose Liability on a Store

In the case of DeRito v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., No. 2:19-CV-737 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 2, 2020 Horan, J.), the court granted summary judgment in a slip and fall matter involving a Wal-Mart store. 

The court noted that the record confirmed that it was undisputed that the allegedly hazardous condition that allegedly caused the Plaintiff to slip and fall had existed for a mere 31 seconds before the Plaintiff fell. 

More specifically, it was noted that it was snowing on the day of the event.  A customer was seen on a video coming into the store and noticing that the automatic door was stuck in the open position.  That customer went to tell a store employee.  About 31 seconds later, another customer came in from the snowy outside and slipped and fell.  About 30 seconds after that, the first customer was seen on the video returning to the door with a store manager to address the issue with the door.   

The court ruled that, as a matter of law, a time period of 31 seconds is too short for the Defendant to have had legally sufficient notice of the defective condition and an opportunity to remedy the same in order to support the claim of liability.

While, generally speaking, notice of a dangerous defect may be implied if the dangerous condition has frequently recurred, there is no evidence that the equipment malfunctioned at issue in this case had ever happened before.

The court additionally noted that an alleged prolonged failure by the store to inspect the area prior to the fall was immaterial since the hazardous condition had not existed at the time.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reid Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

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