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Publix is a supermarket chain based in Lakeland, Florida. With over a thousand stores across Florida, and nearly two hundred thousand employees, “shopping at Publix’ is an experience nearly everyone who lives and works in Florida has enjoyed. Moreover, Publix is now expanding beyond Florida, with stores in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. One day soon, we may even find Publix in New York City.

Since 1991, our personal injury law firm has represented people who have been injured in Publix stores and their parking lots in a variety of cases. The most common is the slip and fall on liquid spilled in one of the aisles or in the produce department. We have seen cases where the liquid came from leaking pipes, spilled samples from vendors, customers who were eating and drinking while shopping, and many other scenarios.

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PUBLIX HAS A DUTY TO USE ORDINARY CARE

Publix, like all Florida businesses, has a legal duty to use ordinary care to maintain its stores in a reasonably safe condition. That means that legally, not all customer slip and falls at Publix are necessarily Publix’s fault.  

Take for example the case of Caridad Dominguez, who was represented by another law firm, and claimed to have fallen on a patch of laundry detergent that had seeped out of a bottle that had fallen from the shelf. According to the Court’s record, a Publix manager ran to the spot of the spilled bottle just nine seconds after the bottle fell, right to the bottle, and just four seconds later, while the manager’s back was turned, the lady slipped and fell in the liquid. In total, the spill had been on the floor for only thirteen seconds at the time of the fall. The aisle is seventy-two feet long and approximately seven feet wide, and all of this was captured by the store’s CCTV cameras.

Ms. Dominguez sued Publix, alleging that they were negligent in the manner in which they maintained the store. Publix denied the claim and made a proposal for settlement, which would entitle them to collect their attorney’s fees and costs from Ms. Dominguez, if and when they defeated her in trial.

At trial, the store’s manager testified that he heard the bottle fall onto the floor, ran to it, and arrived within ten seconds.  While he was straddling the bottle and spill, Ms. Dominguez rounded the corner, approaching the scene from behind the manager, when she stepped into the spill and fell.

At the close of the testimony, Publix moved for a Directed Verdict, a legal maneuver made to deny a plaintiff the chance to have a jury render a verdict by asking the trial judge to evaluate the evidence and then dismiss the case. The trial judge agreed with Publix and dismissed the case. Publix then sought to recover its attorney’s fees and costs from Ms. Dominguez, pursuant to their proposal for settlement.  

Ms. Dominguez appealed to the Third District Court of Appeal, which reasoned that the issue in this case is not whether Publix failed to warn Ms. Dominguez of the spill, which it somehow considered to be an open and obvious condition. Instead, the court perceived the issue to be whether or not Publix used ordinary care to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition.  Sadly, the appellate court agreed with the trial court’s dismissal, and as a result Ms. Dominguez received nothing for her injuries and most likely owes Publix the cost of their defense.((CARIDAD MIYIRIAM DOMINGUEZ, Appellant/Cross-Appellee, vs. PUBLIX SUPER MARKETS, INC., Appellee/Cross-Appellant. 3rd District. Case No. 3D14-2212. L.T. Case No. 08-46176. ))

Spill incidents like this are called “transitory foreign substance cases,” and courts look at how long the spill is on the floor before an accident occurs.((Gaidymowicz v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., 371 So. 2d 212, 214 (Fla. 3d DCA 1979).)) For example, a spill case was dismissed against Winn-Dixie, another Florida grocery store, when the spill had been on the floor for less than one minute; in that case, Winn-Dixie did not have sufficient opportunity to correct the dangerous condition and, therefore, could not be found liable on the basis of actual notice. There was no evidence to show how long Winn-Dixie should have known about the spill.   

In another Publix case, in which a customer slipped and fell on a broken jar of mayonnaise, the case was dismissed when it was shown that the jar had been on the floor for only about a minute and a half before the fall. Then there was the case of the broken baby food jar, when the spill occurred less than five seconds before the fall.

PERSONAL INJURY CASE AGAINST PUBLIX: CALL 1-866-597-4529

Suing Publix requires the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney who understands the complexities of these types on cases. If you have been injured while shopping at a supermarket, call our experienced personal injury law firm today to discuss the facts of your potential case. Let our lawyers help you evaluate your claim and work with you to maximize the amount of monetary compensation you may be entitled to as reimbursement of your medical expenses, time lost from work, and pain and suffering.

We offer free initial consultations to anyone who has a potential slip, trip, or fall claim against Publix, Winn-Dixie, Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, or any other Florida grocery store. Call us today toll-free at 1-866-597-4529, locally at 305-441-0440, or email us at [email protected]. We are ready to help you.