Federal judge allows slip-and-fall case against Best Buy to proceed

By Jon Campisi | Oct 5, 2012

A U.S. District judge in Philadelphia has allowed a slip-and-fall case against electronics

A U.S. District judge in Philadelphia has allowed a slip-and-fall case against electronics

retailer Best Buy to proceed in federal court.

In an Oct. 3 order filed at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, U.S. District Judge Jan E. Dubois denied without prejudice a motion for summary judgment that had been filed by Best Buy attorneys in a case in which the retail giant is being sued by a Pennsylvania woman who claims she sustained a variety of foot injuries after she slipped and fell on an advertising circular that had been left on the ground of the Best Buy store at 310 Commerce Boulevard in Fairless Hills, Pa.

Kathleen Siffel filed suit on May 5, 2011, in Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court; the action was removed to the federal venue by the defendant’s lawyers the following month.

The injury case stemmed from an Aug. 11, 2009, incident in which Siffel allegedly slipped on the paper advertisement moments after walking into the store to purchase a gift card.

The plaintiff claims she hadn’t seen the circular until after she had already tumbled to the ground.

Siffel learned she had sustained broken bones in her right foot, and doctors later informed her that she developed a stress fracture and tendonitis in her left foot due to the fact that the plaintiff was overcompensating due to her prior injuries, background information on the case shows.

The plaintiff claims she continues to suffer from pain, mental anguish, emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation as a result of her fall.

Siffel’s lawsuit asserts that the defendant was negligent in failing to properly inspect and maintain its floors, specifically that the retailer had actual notice or constructive notice of the defect but failed to correct it.

In its motion for summary judgment, Best Buy argued that the plaintiff has not established a prima facie case because she has failed to demonstrate a breach of duty under the Rules of Civil Procedure.

The crucial inquiry in this type of case is whether the defendant had actual notice of the dangerous condition or constructive notice of the dangerous condition.

In this case, however, DuBois determined that Siffel had advanced sufficient evidence to allow a jury to infer that the defendant had actual notice of the dangerous condition.

Siffel had asserted that Best Buy had actual notice of the advertising circular in question because “litter around the Welcome Stand was a recurring condition.”

“Under Pennsylvania law, for actual notice to be imputed to defendants on the basis of a recurring condition, such a condition must have recurred in a ‘pervasive or obvious’ fashion,” the judge’s order states.

In this case, Siffel has advanced sufficient evidence to meet the “pervasive and obvious” standard, DuBois wrote, mainly due to the testimony of three Best Buy employees who claimed that they had previously seen brochures on the floor around the welcome stand.

Another employee testified that she had heard customers complain about the “messy” store floor prior to the plaintiff’s fall.

In this case, DuBois wrote, if the litigation proceeds to trial, a jury could properly find that Best Buy knew about the dangerous condition prior to the accident.

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