This was originally posted on the SGR Blog.
Was Owner Liable for Personal Injury?
Some fact patterns raise the question of why the suit was even filed? A recent case is illustrative.
On the evening of March 28, 2018, while at the gym, which is a corporately-owned location of Planet Fitness, located in the City of Newburgh, Orange County, Jason Briggs allegedly slipped and fell in a puddle of water that had accumulated near the shower in the men’s locker room. He filed a negligence action against Planet Fitness to recover damages for personal injuries he sustained due to the fall.
Supreme Court dismissed Briggs’ complaint—finding that Planet Fitness established, prima facie, that it did not have constructive notice of the alleged condition and that there was no dangerous condition. Briggs failed to raise a question of fact in response. Briggs appealed.
Briggs contended that a question of fact existed as to whether the puddle outside of the shower stall was a dangerous condition. The appeals court disagreed. The owner of the property must maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition because of all the circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of the injury, and the burden of avoiding the risk. To establish entitlement to summary judgment in a slip and fall case, a defendant bears the initial burden of demonstrating that it had maintained the property in a reasonably safe condition and that it did not create or have actual or constructive notice of the specific allegedly dangerous condition that resulted in the plaintiff’s injury. Once a defendant establishes prima facie entitlement to such relief as a matter of law, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to raise a triable issue of fact as to the creation of the defect or notice,
The submissions by Planet Fitness established that Briggs slipped and fell in an accumulation of water just outside of the shower stall. To that end, Briggs recalled in his deposition testimony that, the evening he fell, he was walking barefoot towards the shower stall when he slipped and fell on “an accumulation of casual water” that had formed a circular puddle approximately one foot by two feet in size and three to four feet away from the shower stall that he had intended to enter. He further recalled that he did not see the water as he approached the shower and did not realize that it was there until he slipped and fell “and was laying in it.” Photographs were taken by both Briggs and an employee of the gym where he slipped and fell established that there was a yellow caution sign directly in front of the showers warning of a wet floor.
Planet Fitness met its initial burden of establishing that the water on the locker room floor was not a dangerous condition. And a wet floor beside a shower was insufficient in and of itself to impart liability. Briggs’ deposition testimony established that, at most, the accumulation of water was two feet in diameter. The photographs corroborated that there was no excessive water outside of the showers. Thus, Planet Fitness established that the amount of water present on the floor was a condition that was necessarily incidental to the use of the shower. Thus, it did not by itself constitute a dangerous condition.
Briggs failed to raise a material question of fact about the existence of a dangerous condition. Although he submitted an expert affidavit of Alden Gaudreau, a professional engineer, nothing in that affidavit raised a question of fact as to whether the water that had accumulated on the floor outside of the shower was anything other than an amount of water incidental to the use of the showers. But the presence of a normal amount of water would not establish want of reasonable care.
Briggs failed to raise a question of fact regarding liability based on the wet bathroom floor.