I know lawyers who sue Florida shopping malls for fall down accidents who watch the weather more closely than some meteorologists, because they know when it rains people tend to slip and fall more. Many of South Florida’s nicest malls have elaborate ceramic, porcelain and stone patterns. And while these decorative designs are often beautiful, they can become as slick as ice when wet. The slipperiness of a floor is called its coefficient of friction or COF. COF measures the ratio of forces required to move one surface over the other under a given vertical force, such as a women’s high-heel shoe over the floor of a Publix’s supermarket. The COF is typically measured by a a machine commonly referred to as a pull meter. The COF is also dependent upon where the surface is. For instance the common area of a mall will generally require a lower coefficient of friction than a parking garage ramp or stairs where more physical exertion is required.
There are many types of treatments that can and should be applied to marble floors and terrazzo floors to make them slip resistant, such as certain coatings. These coatings can chemically alter the surface of the floor, making them more slip resistant. However if the coatings are not applied correctly or maintained properly they can actually be more slippery than the floor itself.
Treatments can be applied to some floors that actually etch the surface of the floor creating microscopic craters rendering floors less slippery. This is typically accomplished with the use of hydrofluoric acid. Many South Florida shopping malls avoid using chemical treatment on their floors because they greatly decrease the floor’s life expectancy.
As an Aventura shopping mall accident lawyer, I have represented those who have slipped, tripped or fallen in stores and shopping malls across Florida. The malls typically like to defend the case by suggesting that the injured customer is a “con artist” who set the entire accident up, searching for a big payday against the mall’s insurance company. For this reason, we always request that the Mall provide the surveillance tape of the not only the fall, but of the hours before and after the event.
Miami shopping malls, hotels, gas stations and banks all have a legal duty in Florida to not just provide reasonable inspection of their property, but also maintenance of the floors. In 2010 the Florida Legislature enacted §768.0755 “Premises liability for transitory foreign substances in a business establishment,” requiring the injured plaintiff to prove that the defendant store owner or operator “acted negligently having actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition and should have taken action to fix it.”
Accordingly, business owners have a responsibility to maintain their floors properly, which includes making sure they are as slip resistant as possible. Certain factors increase the likelihood of a floor becoming slippery, such as rain water, grease, oil and spilled food. I have personally sued a number of Florida grocery stores such as Costco and BJ’s when people were injured after having slipped on food given away as samples but instead, ended up on the floor. Stores that provide samples to customers have an obligation to make sure that there are waste receptacle conveniently located near the samples so that customers do not just discard the unwanted pits, toothpicks and half eaten cheese on to the floor.
The best thing a South Florida mall can do to minimize an injury from a slick floor is to install walk-off floor mats and wet floor signs at the entrance and exits of all stores, especially on days when it is raining.
Floor maintenance should only occur at night when there are no customers so that there is ample time to allow the product to dry. Many businesses, including McDonald’s, sometimes perform maintenance during the hour before a store opens, leaving some floors unnecessarily slippery. Simply shifting the hours of floor maintenance would significantly increase customer safety.
Many shopping malls do not keep any records of maintenance or inspection. When I sue a restaurant after someone has been hurt due to a slippery floor, I always demand to review inspection and maintenance logs. Surprisingly, many businesses do not keep accurate logs. Another reason it makes sense to obtain the surveillance video is to compare whether or not the video matches the stores own internal maintenance and inspection logs.
As a Coral Gables personal injury lawyer, I remain devoted to helping those injured in slip and fall or trip and fall accidents in Florida’s shopping malls.