Carol Evans was shopping at the Marrero Winn-Dixie when she slipped in a puddle of standing liquid. Ms. Evans brought a lawsuit against Winn-Dixie for her injuries alleging that she slipped in the puddle of liquid in the meat section of the store. The store’s co-director, Mr. Scioneaux, helped Ms. Evans complete an incident report. Subsequently, Mr. Scioneaux successfully tracked down what he believed to be the source of the moisture, a leaking 24-pack of water. He then reviewed surveillance video of the aisle where the incident occurred and saw no evidence of any other injuries. He further testified that the person who had the leaking 24-pack of water in their grocery cart was in the aisle only one minute prior to the accident. Ms. Evans testified that she did not notice any liquid on the floor until after she fell, and further described it as being clear. She also had no way to account for the length of time it had been present, and there were no prior complaints of water before Ms. Evans sustained her injuries. Winn-Dixie filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that Ms. Evans could not show that Winn-Dixie had actual or constructive notice of the condition prior to her accident, which was required for a successful case. The Judicial District Court for the Parish of Jefferson granted Winn-Dixie’s motion for summary judgment based on Ms. Evan’s failure to prove notice as required. Ms. Evans filed an appeal with the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal.
Merchants are tasked with the duty of keeping their premises in reasonably safe condition. This means that a merchant must exercise reasonable care in keeping aisles, passageways, and floors free from any hazardous conditions that could reasonably cause injury. A plaintiff who sustains injuries while lawfully on the merchant’s premises must prove:  the condition created an unreasonable risk of harm that was reasonably foreseeable;  the merchant was aware of the condition that caused the damage, through either actual or constructive notice, prior to the injury; and  the merchant failed to exercise reasonable care to remedy the condition. See La. R.S. 9:2800.6. To succeed under a theory of constructive notice, a plaintiff must show that the hazardous condition existed for a period of time that it would have been discovered if the merchant exercised reasonable care. See Trench v. Winn-Dixie Montgomery LLC, 150 So.3d 472,475 (La. Ct. App. 2014). A plaintiff must present “positive evidence” of the existence of the condition prior to the accident. For employee presence to constitute constructive notice, a plaintiff must show that an employee either knew or should have known of the condition. The burden of presenting solid evidence in these cases is high; a plaintiff cannot successfully bring a slip and fall case based on speculation.