Slip and fall accidents during the winter plague business owners. No matter how many precautions a business may take to avoid such incidents, the occasional slip and fall is bound to happen inside or outside of commercial premises. In fact, slip and falls account for over one million emergency room visits each year.
Even the most seemingly benign incidents can turn into a lawsuit that heads to trial, with the verdict left in the hands of a jury. However, business owners in the Second Department can take some solace, as courts in that department have held commercial establishments are not required to provide a constant remedy to cover their floors with mats or continuously mop up moisture from rain or snow tracked into their premises.
In Tappeto v. Bracco’s Clam & Oyster Bar, Inc., the defendant restaurant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint for personal injuries allegedly sustained at the restaurant after a slip and fall.
During her deposition, the plaintiff testified she slipped and fell after walking inside the restaurant about five minutes after it began to rain. The plaintiff claimed the floor of the restaurant became wet from patrons tracking water into the restaurant on their feet and the restaurant’s failure to have any mats on the floor. The restaurant’s owner testified at his deposition that his staff would mop rainwater spills when it rained. Also, the restaurant’s manager testified that floor mats were placed in front of every door leading to the outside. The manager further testified that when it rained, there were always mats at every door.
In his decision, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Thomas Feinman found the restaurant demonstrated an entitlement to summary judgment. The court reasoned that, by showing it did not create the condition causing the plaintiff’s fall and it did not have actual or constructive notice of the condition, the restaurant could not be found liable for the plaintiff’s slip and fall. The court also found, among other things, that because the restaurant had no prior complaints from anyone slipping inside the bar, coupled with the plaintiff’s deposition testimony that she slipped and fell inside the restaurant about five minutes after it began to rain, the restaurant could not have sufficient notice of the condition.