Where the evidence suggested that a small amount of clear liquid had been on the floor of a grocery store for just a short time, summary judgment for defendant in a Tennessee premises liability case was affirmed.
In Jones v. Publix Supermarket, Inc., No. M2018-01672-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 7, 2019), plaintiff was shopping in defendant grocery store. As she rounded the corner towards the seafood department, she slipped on clear liquid. She got up quickly and did not seek assistance, and she refused to fill out an incident report on the day of the accident, but she returned the next day to complete one. She subsequently filed this premises liability action. The trial court granted summary judgment for defendant, finding that plaintiff failed to prove actual or constructive notice of the allegedly dangerous condition, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
The incident was captured by store cameras, which showed that about two minutes before plaintiff fell, a toddler was in a shopping cart in the same area and was playing with and drinking from a sippy cup. The toddler dropped the sippy cup into the wire cart two times, and defendant argued that this was the likely source of the liquid. In the two minutes between the toddler leaving the area and the plaintiff falling, the video showed several customers walking through the area with no problems, and no store employees coming nearby. During discovery, the store employee who was working in the seafood department that day stated that he was helping a customer at the counter at the time of the incident, but that he heard something happen. He went to the location of plaintiff’s fall around two minutes later, saw “a little bit of water…not a puddle” on the floor, and waited there until another employee brought paper towels to clean the liquid. He testified that prior to the fall, he had seen no liquid in the area.