On March 17, 2010, the South Dakota Supreme Court released an opinion on a “slip and fall” case. This decision is very helpful in showing what exactly a slip and fall case is, and when an owner of a business can be liable for an injury of a customer. You can read the entire decision here.
In this case, Francis Janis, the plaintiff, walked into Prairie Market, a supermarket, at 7:30 AM on the morning of January 28, 2004 to get his daily breakfast. This morning was very cold, with a strong wind blowing from the northeast. When Janis walked through the sliding glass doors, the rug beneath him slid beneath his feet, and he began to fall. He fell awkwardly, twisting his knee and landing on his back. When he tried to get up, he fell again. Janis put his hand under him, and felt a patch of ice on the floor, which had been hidden under the rug.
The question for the court to decide was whether Prairie Market should be liable, or have to pay, for Janis’s injuries. The court held that because Janis was a business visitor, or “invitee”, who was there in direct connection with a business dealing with the owner, that Prairie Market owed Janis a duty of “reasonable care.” This means that Prairie Market had to make the property reasonably safe for the benefit of all invitees, including Janis.
South Dakota law states that owners must warn invitees of concealed dangerous conditions known to the owner. Prairie Market argued that since it didn’t “know” about the danger, since the ice was hidden under the rug, it should not be held liable. The court held that, essentially, Prairie Market should have known that a rug placed on wet tile immediately inside a frequently open door in the heart of winter might involve an unreasonable risk to invitees. Therefore, Prairie Market could be held liable.
For a more in depth discussion of slip and fall cases in South Dakota, please read our article here.