On September 9, 2008, George Alonzo visited the Safari Car Wash on Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Metarie. While exiting the restroom in the car wash’s waiting area, Alonzo fell and sustained injuries. In a lawsuit against the carwash, he alleged that he slipped in a puddle that had been caused by employees’ tracking in water from the carwash facilities.
Under Louisiana law, Alonzo shouldered the burden of proving three key elements: 1) the condition that existed on the car wash’s premises presented an unreasonable risk of harm and that the risk was reasonably foreseeable; 2) the car wash either created or had actual or constructive notice of the condition which caused the risk; and (3) the car wash failed to exercise reasonable care in remediating the condition. Constructive notice means that the condition existed for such a period of time that it should have been discovered if the car wash’s employees had exercised reasonable care.
Alonzo’s complaint was dismissed by the trial court on the car wash’s motion for summary judgment. Alonzo appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal for the State of Louisiana, which affirmed the dismissal. Upon review, the court noted that Alonzo failed to prove that an unreasonably dangerous condition caused his fall. During his deposition, when asked what caused his fall, Alonzo responded, “I guess the floor was damp. I didn’t really see it, because I–you know, I wasn’t looking down when I walk.” He stated further that he assumed the floor was wet, but that he did not look on the floor after the fall to see what he would have slipped on, even though his pants, socks, and shoes were wet. Alonzo also contended that the waiting area’s concrete floor was hazardous because there were no carpets or non-slip mats, and the car wash employees were permitted to enter the waiting area in wet clothes and shoes. The court concluded that “Alonzo… was unable to identify the condition of the floor in defendant’s premises on the date of the fall,” and the circumstantial evidence he offered was insufficient to meet his burden of proof.
This case makes plain the substantial burden facing a plaintiff in a trip and fall case. Circumstantial evidence may not be enough to establish the existence of a hazardous condition, let along the other elements required by Louisiana statute. If you have been injured in a fall on a merchant’s property, seek out an experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your claim and help you get the recovery you deserve.
Call the Berniard Law Firm today at 866-574-8005.