RRD Partner Steven H. Malitz, Counsel Michael P. Kenney and Associate Kate J. Boucher, obtained summary judgment in a significant premises liability lawsuit.

November 21, 2016

RRD Partner Steven H. Malitz, Counsel Michael P. Kenney and Associate Kate J. Boucher, obtained summary judgment in a significant premises liability lawsuit. The case involved a serious slip and fall inside of our client’s large retail store, located in Naugatuck, on February 12, 2013.  Just days before the incident, a record-breaking blizzard struck the area, depositing 30 inches of snow. The 20-year-old Plaintiff slipped and fell on a small puddle of water located in the main aisle of the store, sustaining serious injuries. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that our client was negligent in creating or maintaining the defective condition, failing to remedy the condition, failing to warn of the condition, and failing to inspect the area. 

A store associate had walked directly past the location of the fall, 40 seconds prior, and did not see any water on the floor.  The associate stopped at a display located approximately 8 feet away, turned around, and began speaking to a familiar male patron, who was now standing, with his large family, in the immediate area of the fall. The store associate noted four to five young children, dressed in snow gear, engaging in horseplay in the area. As the Plaintiff walked past the family and toward the associate, she slipped and fell to the floor.  The associate immediately approached the Plaintiff to help her off the floor, and at that point noticed the small puddle of water. The associate deduced that the water came from the snow boots of the children who were in the location prior to the fall. The entire incident was captured on store surveillance video.

The motion for summary judgment was based on lack of actual or constructive notice, a requisite element of the Plaintiff’s premises liability claim.  Specifically, we argued that the available evidence demonstrated that the defective condition was in existence for 40 seconds or less, which was an insufficient amount of time to confer constructive notice upon the store. Numerous cases were cited to in the memorandum of law in support, all of which stood for the proposition that a time period of a few minutes, or less, is not a reasonable amount of time for a premises owner to notice and remedy a defective condition. In her Objection, the Plaintiff attempted to establish that the water could have been present for longer than 40 seconds by arguing that the store associate was not credible and/or was acting in her own self-interest.  Plaintiff contended that the surveillance video actually showed that the associate was not looking at the floor as she walked past the area prior to the fall, and that she had made inconsistent statements at her deposition regarding the circumstances surrounding the fall.

After extensive briefing and oral argument, the Court granted the motion for summary judgment due to the lack of actual or constructive notice of the defective condition on the part of the store.  The Court found the case law relied upon in the memorandum of law in support, and one Appellate Court case in particular, to be highly persuasive. The Court further found no basis for the Plaintiff’s claims regarding the credibility of the store associate and, thus, concluded that there was no genuine issue of material fact.  The Court held that, as a matter of law, a time period of 40 seconds, or less, is an insufficient amount of time to confer constructive notice upon a premises owner.