Plaintiff Latasha Hartman brought a civil action for damages against David Clark after slipping at a Chick-fil-A restaurant that he owned and incurring an injury. Clark moved for a summary judgment and the court did accept the motion. A summary judgment is applicable when there is an absence of material fact in a matter and it is determined that there is no need to proceed further with the case. Hartman went to the restaurant and ate, after which, she used the restroom. Upon entering the restroom, she proceeded directly into the stall unit designated as handicapped for a period of less than 10 minutes. As she exited the stall, she fell and sustained injuries to her ankle and back. During the case deposition, Hartman explained that the fall was the result of slipping on water; however, at that time she stated that the water was not present when she had entered the stall minutes earlier.
The state law explains that simply proving that a guest fell is not in itself sufficient to establish that a proprietor is liable for an injury to a guest. In these matters of premises liability, the plaintiff must prove that the proprietor had knowledge either actually or constructively that the dangerous condition that caused the injury existed. In this case, Hartman did not contend that the staff was aware of the water she slipped on. In order to claim that constructive knowledge existed, the dangerous condition had to have been in place for a period long enough to allow for the proprietor to have inspected the premises and identified the problem.
The facts indicate that no water was present upon her entering the stall, yet it was present no more than 10 minutes later. This period of time is considered insufficient for a proprietor to have identified the concern and removed the water. The court focused on case law which stated that 15 to 20 minutes is not a sufficient amount of time for a grocery store or restaurant to locate dangerous moisture on the floor. In response, Hartman suggested that she had perhaps failed to notice the presence of the water when entering the stall unit. The court deemed this interpretation to be contrary to her prior assertion that she saw no water present, and after making that statement originally, she never made efforts to modify or clarify her assertion.
The evidence simply did not reflect that the proprietor was aware of the water spill causing Hartman to fall. The court affirmed that summary judgment was appropriate. The law clearly explains that the requirements for recovery require that a proprietor had knowledge of a hazardous condition at the time and the invitee here did not.
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