Civil engineering expert witness opines on slip and fall in grocery store


civil engineering expert witnessA civil engineering expert witness for the plaintiff opines on a case happened in Arizona involving a slip and fall accident. The plaintiff, a forty-year-old woman, was shopping with her son in a grocery store. When she was searching for cheese in the refrigerated case, she slipped on some spilled soup and fell. She suffered a serious injury and required medical treatment. The son said that after he saw his mother lying on the floor, he noticed soupy footprints leading away from the spill, as though other customers had stepped in it. The store asserts that an employee had just walked through the area minutes before the incident and the floor was clean and dry. The location of the spill was about 35 feet from where store employees were providing customers with soup samples in small cups without lids.

The plaintiff asserts claims of premises liability and negligence on the grounds that the soup was not cleaned up and presented a hazard or because the floor was inherently slippery.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Was the store floor unsafe?
  • 2. Did the store adhere to the industry standard of care?
  • 3. Was an alternative floor available?

Expert Witness Response

The floor surface was in an unsafe condition at the time of the fall. Testing on the linoleum floor showed it had an average slip resistance of 0.62 under dry conditions, an average slip resistance of 0.13 under wet conditions and an average slip resistance of 0.04 with an exemplar soup spill. Studies have shown that there is greater than an 80% chance of a slip event occurring on a floor surface that has a slip resistance less than 0.15 or below. This presents an unreasonably high risk of slipping.

Due to the environment, it was foreseeable to the store that liquids would be present on the floor. Such a spill would be difficult for a customer to perceive, given the reflectiveness of the floor and fluorescent lighting. A slip-resistant floor would have reduced the risk of a fall. It was below the standard of care for the store to use the flooring it did. Alternative flooring that is less slippery when wet is available. Similarly, a slip-resistant treatment is available. Both are available at a reasonable cost.

This expert is a licensed civil engineer, member of the Pedestrian Safety Committee of the American Society of Testing and Materials and is president of a construction and safety consulting company who has personally investigated hundreds of retail slip-and-fall incidents in more than 20 years.

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