Slip and Fall On Concrete Debris In Hardware Store

Michael Morgenstern

Written by
— Updated on October 2, 2017

hardware store - cementPlaintiffs went to a hardware retailer in South Carolina to pick up some supplies for their business. The husband slipped on loose, dry concrete on the floor and fell. As a result of this fall, he alleges that he has suffered extensive physical, emotional and economic damages. He sustained a brachial plexus injury in his right arm and shoulder, and has undergone cervical, thoracic and lumbar surgeries.

Plaintiffs allege the defendant created the dangerous condition by tearing a bag of dry concrete mix with a forklift blade, which permitted the mix to spill on the floor; failing to remove the concrete mix from the floor, due the inadequate manner of sweeping the debris against wooden pallets, thereby permitted redistribution of the debris by customers and other employees walking near the pallets; and failing to have a consistent policy and procedure to inspect and clean the floor, or to verify and document that its employees inspected and cleaned the floors.

The defendant asserts that it did not have notice of the dangerous condition of the debris on the floor in sufficient time to clean it.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Did a dangerous condition exist at the time of the accident?
  • 2. Did the defendant act in accordance with the standard of care?

Expert Witness Response

The floor of the subject concrete aisle, when covered with the fine particulate of the concrete mix material, has a reduced slip resistance of 0.34, which is below industry standard and is associated with an increased likelihood of a slip-and-fall incident; this is further exacerbated if pebbles, gravel, and little rocks from the concrete mix are also present. Thus, a dangerous condition exists when concrete mix spills onto and is left on the floor of the concrete aisle.

Defendant was well aware, prior to the subject accident, that the concrete aisle is frequently subject to having debris, such as the concrete mix material, on the floor; and as such, is a safety concern. This is supported by the depositions of employees who testified that the concrete aisle was a “main traffic area” that was a source of frustration and concern for the manager with regard to cleanliness, and that the manager had told employees to keep the concrete aisle clean because, “we all know it’s a safety issue.”

The concrete aisle should have been monitored and cleaned with greater vigilance by the staff. The industry standard for floor inspections in a retail environment is once per hour; for establishments such as grocery stores, the standard is typically reduced to once every 30 minutes. The concrete aisle, which is known to frequently accumulate debris, should have been inspected and maintained at a level comparable to that of grocery stores-once every 30 minutes. Employees stated that their instruction was to sweep the concrete aisle every 15 minutes. Despite this, we have video proof of not only an empty pallet and shrink wrap left with the displayed merchandise, but also of an incomplete pallet of 90-lb. Quikrete, with several bags torn open and evidence of the concrete mix material (fine particulate and pebbles/rocks/gravel) scattered in the aisle adjacent to the pallet. Obviously, the concrete aisle was not being as vigilantly monitored as the defendant’s employees claim. If this condition were allowed to exist on the date of the video, it could certainly have been just as likely to exist on the day of the fall, contrary to the testimonies and declarations of the employees.

Even if, contrary to the evidence provided thus far, the concrete aisle were actually swept in accordance with industry standard or the store’s alleged 15-minute policy, there is photographic and video evidence, taken on various dates, that the manner in which the floor was swept was inadequate or insufficient, such that sand, dirt, or other particulates may either remain on the floor within the aisle or may be merely pushed off to the side and not picked up, with the possibility of it being moved back into the aisle at a later time. This insufficient cleaning methodology could easily lead to a slip-and-fall accident such as the subject accident. It is obvious that defendant’s cleaning practice is to merely sweep the debris to the side of the aisle, particularly to the side of the aisle which contains the pallets, rather than sweeping into a dustbin and throwing away the debris; furthermore, the sweeping technique of some associates leaves something to be desired, as sometimes not all of the debris is successfully swept to the side. In such a condition, certainly a customer such as plaintiff could easily slip and fall.

Further, the failure of the defendant to document the condition of the floor is a major concern. Defendant did not take any photographs of the scene of the accident and claims that there were no working surveillance cameras monitoring the concrete aisle, but only empty surveillance domes (despite the fact that the concrete aisle is a heavily-used aisle and also contains the entrance to the restrooms and offices).

Defendant’s cleaning and maintenance procedures on the date of the subject accident were, more likely than not, below the industry standard and most probably were the proximate cause of the subject accident.

The expert is a professional engineer and board-certified forensic examiner.

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