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Oil/Grease Slip and Fall at Supermarket

Grease and oil leak out of a rotisserie chicken container

Grease and oil leak out of a rotisserie chicken container.

Oil/Grease Slip and Fall at Supermarket

Warped lids caused by the intense heat of the heat lamps.

Oil grease can cause the surface of any floor to become slippery. This can result in serious injuries to customers, who were not aware or notified of the dangerous conditions. Our office has seen a lot of cases involving the clamshell packaging of rotisserie chicken. In many cases, the purchaser of the item removes the rotisserie chicken from the shopping cart and move the item around causing the oil/grease to be released. Often times, this is caused because of faulty packaging.

Notice and Why it Does Not Always Work

Supermarkets will argue that they did not have sufficient notice and time to have prevented the fall. In most cases, supermarkets or businesses must have adequate notice before they can be held liable. Thus, if the customer fell within a few minutes of the spill and the market had no notice, it would create big liability problem. You would not be able to hold the supermarket liable because they did not have sufficient time to clean the spill. However, a notice will not always work in these situations. If you have an issue, such as faulty packaging, the supermarket may have had prior notice. This includes prior notices of falls or complaints from either customers or from employee. For example, customers may have noticed the leaking package and notified the store manager. Or, the employees may have noticed that the packaging leaks oil/grease and notified the manager. In either scenario they would need to take actions to prevent continued spills, knowing it can be dangerous.

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The solution is simple and in certain situations you would be able to show as such. For example, if the store placed the container in a bag, it would have prevented any subsequent spills. Many experts have opined that the cost of these types of bags are between .04 to .05 cents. Thus, it would not be burdensome on the entity from a financial position.

Balancing the Harm v. Profits

Courts will also consider balancing the harm v. profits. Here, if the you demonstrate that the cost of replacement packaging was nominal, it will be beneficial in front of the jury. California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) discuss unsafe conditions. Section 1003 discusses CACI instructions with respect to unsafe conditions as follows:
  • A condition on the property created an unreasonable risk of harm;
  • Defendant knew or, through the exercise of reasonable car, should have known about it; and
  • Defendant failed to repair the condition, protect against harm from the condition, or give adequate warning of the condition.
Here, if you can establish that the business owner failed at any of the elements listed above, you can continue to prosecute your case.

Sweep Sheets Don’t Tell the Full Story

Many attorneys will not see the creativity involved in handling a case like this. Sweep sheets are a logs that record when the premises was actually cleaned or the aisle was swept.  Typically, what most people look at is the timing between when the spill happened and when the client fell. If the video surveillance or sweep sheets show that they did not have sufficient time to have cleaned the surface, it will be difficult to hold the store liable. These sheets are used by the defense to show that they could not have been notified of the incident, or, at least did not have sufficient amount of time. However, this is not the case, when the incident involves an issue about which they were notified prior to the fall. For example, if the packaging was defective and they were notified about it beforehand, it would be problematic for the establishment to claim no notice.

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Additionally, the packaging can warp due to the heat. Since the rotisserie chicken is designed to stay warm and put under heat lamps, the plastic packaging will warp under the intense heat. This will cause the edges of the actual packaging to crack or crumple together. This will make the packaging far less capable of containing any type of moisture or liquid. In fact, it is likely that the packaging will fall apart and result in the leaking to occur. When plastic is exposed to extreme heat for a long period of time the packaging will warp. As a result, the packaging will not connect correctly resulting in the spill. If you were injured in a similar incident feel free to give us a call to discuss your case. We look forward to providing her a free confidential consultation.
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