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Fry Suit Won’t Fly
by Ron Davis
Were the owners of a Michigan shopping center negligent in not spotting a french fry that a careless food-court diner dropped in the center’s common area? Absolutely not, the courts have ruled in a lawsuit resulting from a shopper’s injury that she said occurred when she slipped on the french fry and fell.
The shopping center is Eastland Mall in Detroit, and its owners denied that they were in any way negligent in the slip-and-fall incident. They pointed out that their precautions against such accidents included the hiring on a maintenance firm that regularly patrolled the common areas and the installation of security cameras in key locations at the center.
The spot where the fall occurred, however, was readily visible to shoppers, and the woman complained that evidence showed that other patrons of the shopping center had stepped on the french fry for some period of time before she fell. (The woman claimed that the french fry was crushed and had left a greasy spot on the floor.) As a result of the obvious duration of the french fry’s lying on the floor, she added, shopping center or maintenance personnel should have spotted it and cleaned up that area.
A Michigan court rejected the woman’s argument and ruled that she had furnished no evidence that the shopping center’s owners or their maintenance crew had actual notice of the french fry on the floor. Moreover, the court said there was no evidence regarding the length of time that the french fry was on the floor before she fell.
The woman appealed, noting that the courts have previously ruled that property owners are liable for injuries resulting from an unsafe condition caused by someone else’s negligence.
The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court decision, explaining, “The evidence does not support the inference that the french fry or its grease was on the floor for a significant period of time.... Even if she did not slip on the french fry itself but its grease, she offers no evidence that a jury could infer that the shopping center’s personnel could have known of its existence.” (Lupo v. Eastland 038 Partners, 2004 WL 1837983, [Mich.App.])
Decision: August 2004
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