TRUCKEE, Calif. — “This is not a typical slip and fall case.” Those were the opening words in the recent Opinion of Sacramento Court of Appeal Justice Coleman Blease, a friend of mine, in the case of Getchell v. Rogers Jewelry.
Arden Fair Mall
Plaintiff Tom Getchell worked as an independent contractor repairing jewelry at Rogers Jewelry in the Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento. He wasn’t an employee of Rogers. On September 13, 2006, Getchell showed up for work and went into the back area to set up his tools, and within a few minutes, slipped in a pool of cleaning solution. He was badly injured. The public did not have access to the back room.
So this case is not like the typical slip and fall which occurs in a public area, like in the mall. I thought you might like this case because you’d recognize the names Rogers Jewelry and Arden Fair Mall and appreciate learning about slip and fall law – should the need arise.
Spoiler alert: Make sure the banana peel you slipped on at the super market has darkened — evidencing it has been there awhile – noticed but not picked up by store personnel. Send me $100 for that bit of advice — should it work.
Rogers Jewelry Sued
Tom Getchell sued Rogers Jewelry for negligence and premises liability claiming Rogers had control over the backroom area; and its employees, not a member of the public, created the dangerous cleaning solution condition.
As is frequently done, Getchell’s wife sued for loss of consortium, i.e. their sex life was hampered.
The trial court ruled for Rogers, finding the store did not have knowledge of the dangerous condition. Getchell appealed.
Slip and Fall Law
Now for the part you have been waiting for: The law of slip and fall. A distinguished jurist once said: “Curiosity of the law is healthy.” Actually no one ever said that. But not bad for off the cuff.
In the normal slip and fall case, a property owner, such as a mall or store owner, must have actual or constructive (they should have known) knowledge of a dangerous condition before liability will be imposed. For example, if there was recently spilled milk, and someone slipped, there may not be a liability. Actually, there is a spilled milk case where the plaintiff lost. It is said, he cried afterwards. If the banana peel you slipped on has been on the floor for a while, the store owner will most likely be found negligent by not picking it up. But, if the dangerous condition is open and obvious, liability generally will not be found. I would call that the “watch where you are walking” defense.
Justice Blease pointed out because there was evidence the store owner’s employees had caused the leaking solution, the law is different. Where the dangerous condition of the property is created by the property owner or his or her employees, the owner may not claim lack of knowledge of the dangerous condition. Knowledge is imputed to the owner.
Judgment in favor of Rogers Jewelry is reversed. Getchell gets to take his case to a jury where he will have to prove that employees created the hazard.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. He was the Governor's appointee to the California Fair Political Practices Commission and McPherson Commission, both involving election law and the Political Reform Act. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, foreclosures, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the firm’s website www.portersimon.com.