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Slippery When Algae ‑ Continued
by Ron Davis

Lengthy efforts to prove that its premises are safe for shoppers in winter have paid off for owners of a Louisiana shopping center.

The shopping center is Acadiana Mall of Delaware, located in Lafayette, and the issue of safety arose when a visitor suffered an injury that occurred on the premises of the center. He eventually sued the owners of the center, arguing that they failed to provide a safe environment for visitors.

Details of the incident show that the injury occurred just after he had arrived at the center. His purpose for the visit was primarily to take advantage of the shopping center interior as a safe place to exercise by walking.

On this occasion, however, he slipped while walking from his car to the mall, resulting in a closed fracture of the fibula. (On a similar slip-and-fall incident at the shopping center, the court favored Acadiana with a verdict for the shopping center owners.)

Details of this later incident indicated that he parked his car in a shady section of the parking area, primarily to protect it from the summer heat, which at the time had reached nearly ninety degrees.

As he then began walking toward the mall, he stepped onto the sidewalk that surrounded the building and began heading toward the mall entrance. On the way, however, he encountered a large accumulation of surface water blocking his path. To avoid getting wet, he stepped down onto what he thought was a dry area. But when he did so, he encountered a buildup of slick algae on the surface. That’s when he slipped and fell.

The initial court decision required further court proceeding. Evidence offered at the initial trial did little to change the basic facts plea, as well as with little change in the initial court verdict.

Also on appeal, however, that evidence pointed out that the injuries of the mall visitor were not as serious as expressed. An Acadiana Mall security guard. for example, responded to the call for an inspection of the scene of the accident. And as a result of this inspection, the guard said he saw slip marks in the surface algae. He also noted that the pants of the complainant were “somewhat wet” but he added that he did not note any visible injury.

A challenge to the majority opinion came from a minority judges, who felt that the ruling was unsatisfactory. Explained one of the minority judges, “We find that the record supports the conclusion….that Acadiana failed to exercise reasonable care. I also find that the existing defect presents an unreasonable risk of harm.”

(Wilson J. Trahan v. Acadiana Mall of Delaware, L.L.C. 16-144, 12/07/2016)

Decision: December, 2016
Published: January, 2017



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