In the recent New Jersey Appellate Division case of Quejada v. ShopRite, the Court affirmed the dismissal of the slip and fall victim had a case and the personal injury plaintiff’s case against a supermarket.
The plaintiff in Quejada was approaching the cash register area of a ShopRite when she slipped and fell. The plaintiff did not notice anything on the ground that would have caused the fall but eventually realized that her clothes were wet after the fall. The plaintiff’s daughter, who was shopping with her, did not see the plaintiff fall, nor did she see anything on the ground that would have caused the fall.
ShopRite moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted ruling that the plaintiff had failed to establish a connection (nexus) between the liquid that allegedly caused the plaintiff to become a slip and fall victim and ShopRite’s “mode-of-operation,” which includes customers’ handling of goods, an employee’s handling of goods, and the characteristics of the goods themselves and the way in which they are packaged. The trial court judge explained that the duty of a business owner to their customers generally does not attach unless the owner had actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition, or had a reasonable opportunity to discover the condition.
The Plaintiff had offered evidence, by way of a photograph, showing a case of bottled water under another customer’s shopping cart, arguing that was enough to show the nexus between the fall and the mode-of-operation. However, the Appellate Division disagreed, noting that there was no evidence that ShopRite dispensed liquids in open containers for purchase, and there was no evidence of any leaking bottles of water, either nearby or anywhere in the store.
This area of law is well settled in New Jersey: when a slip and fall occurs in a store, there must be a connection between the condition causing the fall, and the store’s mode of operation in addition to the owner having notice, whether it be actual or constructive. Each case must be carefully evaluated on an individual basis as unlike the slip and fall victim in Quejada, just because a slip and fall occurs on water, it does not automatically disqualify recovery from the store.
Recently, Ward, Shindle & Hall successfully negotiated a settlement for a plaintiff who similarly became a slip and fall victim on water but in a different area of a supermarket. We were successful in arguing that the slip and fall was a result of the store’s mode-of-operation.