Earlier Slip Constitutes Actual Knowledge of the Hazard

Following a slip and fall incident involving spilled rice at a local grocery store, the plaintiff immediately sought emergency and chiropractic treatment for low back pain and thereafter filed suit against the grocery store. The store responded, denying liability and asserting fraud on the part of the plaintiff. The trial judge rejected the store’s allegations of fraud, and rendered judgment in favor of plaintiff in the amount of $5,000.00 in general damages. The store appealed the lack of fraud finding and allocation of fault, while plaintiff answered the appeal and sought an increase in general damages.

According to the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal, the surveillance video on which the store relied did not conclusively establish whether or not the plaintiff’s fall was intentional. The record reasonably supported the trial judge’s finding that the plaintiff “legitimately fell”, and therefore the plaintiff was not fraudulent in asserting her claim. Based on the surveillance video, however, plaintiff slipped in the rice twice and fell to the ground after only the second slip, which was approximately 22 seconds later. The store argued, and the Third Circuit agreed, that plaintiff had actual knowledge of the hazard prior to falling, and thus must bear some degree of fault. The judgment of the trial court was reversed and reallocated 60% of fault to the plaintiff for the accident. While the general damage award was affirmed, the grocery store was only responsible for 40% of the total award.

Stevens v. Mkt. Basket Stores, Inc.