Slip, Trip and Fall: Reasonable Safety Measures Required

In prior newsletters, we have noted our frustration with court rulings favoring the plaintiff in slip, trip and fall cases relative to a hospital’s duty of care to the general public. In one particular case, a surveillance video clearly showed a hospital housekeeping employee vigorously wringing out his mop prior to mopping the area, placing two “wet floor” signs in the area (one directly facing anyone exiting the elevator) and giving a gesture to warn the plaintiff before she exited the elevator.

The trial court ruled the housekeeping employee created a trap for those arriving on the second floor because those departing the elevator would be unaware of the wet floor hazard created until it was too late.

However, the appellate court noted the mopping purposely occurred at a time when there were generally fewer visitors at the hospital. The court also stated that daily mopping is not only reasonable, but necessary for a hospital to maintain a sanitary environment. The surveillance video shows the plaintiff walking directly past one of the wet floor signs prior to her fall. In addition to the signage, the plaintiff admitted to seeing the housekeeping employee as she stepped out of the elevator. Also, immediately following the plaintiff’s fall, the video shows another occupant of the elevator safely traversing the same path taken by the plaintiff.

Here is the key finding by the appellate court:

“Although the plaintiff and the trial court found that the hospital could have taken additional measures, the hospital need only take measures that are reasonable. Considering the entirety of the record, we conclude that the trial court’s finding that the measures taken by the hospital were not reasonable is manifestly erroneous.”

We are not out of the woods in this case as the plaintiff is now appealing to the Louisiana Supreme Court. However, we believe this appellate decision offers very strong reasoning as to reasonable versus unreasonable policies as well as a procedure for hospital housekeeping staff. It also reinforces our decision to stand by the housekeeping employee and not succumb to arguments to settle the case pre-trial because of the likely verdict rendered in so many of these cases.

For more information on wet floor precautions, download our free resource here.

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