No Recovery for Slip and Fall on Shampoo Due to Store’s Lack of Notice Defense

A Plaintiff who sues a store for injuries caused by a slip and fall on a spilled product must first show that the store knew of the spill or had a reasonable opportunity to discover and remedy the dangerous condition. In a case recently affirmed by the New Jersey Appellate Division, the court held that the three-minute interval between when one customer spilled a bottle of shampoo, and another slipped on it, was not enough time to give the store a reasonable opportunity to discover and remedy the spill.

In that case, the plaintiff, Beverly Jackson (Beverly) slipped on a small amount of shampoo at the ShopRite in Ewing, N.J. Security camera footage showed that a man and two boys were walking through the shampoo aisle when one of them knocked a bottle off the shelf, dislodging the cap. The customers returned the bottle to the shelf but left a quarter-sized dollop of shampoo on the floor. Three minutes later, Beverly walked into the aisle and slipped on the spilled shampoo.

In order for ShopRite to be held liable, Beverly had to prove that ShopRite violated its duty of care. Businesses who invite shoppers onto their premises owe shoppers “a duty of reasonable care to guard against any dangerous conditions on [its] property that the owner either knows about or should have discovered.” Part of this duty is to conduct reasonable inspections to discover dangerous conditions. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of ShopRite, holding that there was no issue of material fact as to whether ShopRite breached that duty.

The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that ShopRite did not have actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition. In other words, Shoprite was not expected to find and clean the spill in the three-minute interval in between the spill and the slip. The Appellate Division also noted testimony from ShopRite provided that the store conducts regular safety meetings, instructing employees to look out for dangerous conditions and clean up spills immediately, or at least not leave them unattended. Moreover, the court cited Beverly’s own testimony that in her thirty years shopping at this location, she had never once seen something left on the floor. As a result, the court concluded that no reasonable jury could find that ShopRite breached its duty of care and affirmed summary judgment for ShopRite.

If you have questions about a slip and fall injury or the duty of care owed to customers who sustain injuries on a business’ premises, feel free to contact Ward, Shindle & Hall for legal advice.