Slip and Fall Case Continues; Store’s Announcement 30 Minutes Prior to Fall Suggested That Store Had Notice of Defective Condition

In Madera v. Target Corp., the Southern District of New York denied defendant Target Corporation’s motion for summary judgment.  Plaintiff sued after slipping and falling on a puddle of water in one of defendants’ stores.

While ordinarily personal injury suits are brought in state court, here the defendant removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity of citizenship of the parties.

The facts, according to the evidence submitted by the parties, were as follows:

On July 23, 2011, Plaintiff arrived at the Bronx Terminal Target store at approximately 3:00 p.m. About fifty minutes later, as she was about to leave the store, Plaintiff slipped and fell in an area between a cashier’s station at the end of aisle 17 and the exit doors, near what is known as “Food Avenue.” Plaintiff testified that she slipped on a puddle of water and landed on her bottom, breaking her fall with her hands. Plaintiff sustained various injuries, including a tear in her left knee, a fracture in her right knee, and a tear in her right wrist. Plaintiff testified that approximately thirty minutes before her fall, she heard an announcement over the store’s public address system stating “water spill,” “Food Avenue,” “Aisle 17,” and “Team mate report.”

Defendants argued, as many defendants do in these types of cases, that they were not liable because plaintiff failed to present evidence showing that Target had notice of the water spill.

“Under New York law … a premises liability claim requires proof that the defendant ‘created the defective condition, or had actual or constructive notice thereof.'”

While there was a potential dispute as to plaintiff’s credibility, that was an issue for the jury at trial:

To be sure, Defendants raise substantial questions about the credibility of Plaintiff’s testimony concerning the public-address announcement. For instance, Plaintiff’s own daughter, S.M., testified that she did not remember hearing any announcement while they were in the Target store on the date of the incident. And Defendants point to evidence tending to show that Target does not use the term “team mate” in referring to its employees, and that it does not use the public address system to notify employees of spills. This evidence certainly calls into question the veracity of Plaintiff’s testimony. Moreover, in light of other evidence in the record—including, for example, a video of the relevant area in the minutes before and after the fall —a jury could well conclude that the announcement, if it occurred at all, did not relate to the defective condition at issue here. But the Court is not free to draw these conclusions on summary judgment. In other words, the dispute about whether there was a public-address announcement and what inferences, if any, to draw from that announcement are issues for the jury at trial.

Therefore, summary judgment was not appropriate.

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