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Contractor establishes constructive notice in slip-and-fall case

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In our last post, we discussed a slip-and-fall case brought by a jewelry store’s independent contractor after he slipped on jewelry cleaning solution and fell in the store’s employee-only area. Evidence in this premises liability case indicates that the jewelry cleaning solution was kept in a 5-gallon bucket in the break room, which was accessible only to the contractor and store employees.

The cleaning solution bucket has a rotating spigot spout that must be rotated to the side of the bucket for use. When not in use, employees are supposed to rotate the spigot back over to the lid so that any leakage from the spout will fall onto the bucket lid instead of the floor.

The contractor claimed that he always properly positioned the spout to avoid floor spills, but that he observed jewelry store employees failing to do so in the past. The last time the contractor worked at the store was two days before his accident, and the only people who had access to the cleaning solution bucket during those two days were jewelry store employees.

On the day of the accident, the contractor went into his work area to set up and then slipped on the pool of cleaning solution within minutes of arriving. The contractor claimed that he had not touched the cleaning solution bucket that day, so therefore his accident must have been due to the negligence of a store employee.

A trial court found that because the jewelry store’s employees had exclusive control of the break room prior to the employee’s fall, its employees likely created the dangerous condition and therefore the store had constructive notice of the dangerous condition that gave rise to the premises liability lawsuit. The contractor was therefore able to continue to pursue his premises liability claim against the store.

Source: Getchell v. Rogers Jewelry, 203 Cal.App.4th 381, Feb. 7, 2012