A business that doesn't clear off slippery conditions is a business waiting to slide into a slip and fall lawsuit.
Whether they're icy sidewalks or puddles in aisles, business owners can face slip and fall liability when they fail to take reasonable steps to maintain a safe premises.
Here are three legal reminders about slip and fall liability:
"Storm doctrines" may give you time to clean up. Several states have storm doctrines -- otherwise called the "storm in progress doctrine," "continuing storm doctrine," or "ongoing storm doctrine" -- that shield businesses from liability for slippery conditions during inclement weather. Under this rule, business owners have a "reasonable time" to correct snow and ice hazards on their property, for a specified number of hours after the weather event ends. Any injuries that occur after that period of time on your property -- including your sidewalks or parking lot -- can trigger liability.
Have a plan in place for indoor hazards. Lest we forget the lesson from the PetSmart dog poop slip and fall settlement: slip and fall concerns aren't limited to outdoor areas. Danger zones for slip and fall injuries include floors, stairs, escalators, and elevators. Have a protocol in place to promptly clean up any slippery conditions. The longer an item remains on the floor, the more the legal presumption of liability is stacked against you. Always put up a sign when the floor is being cleaned or is wet, close off slippery areas, and don't use too much wax on the ground. Have plenty of mats available during inclement weather so that people don't track water through the store.
Don't ignore employee-only areas either. Employees commonly suffer slip and fall injuries at their workplaces. Businesses can also face potential liability for failing to properly maintain employee-only areas. For example, the California Supreme Court has ruled that an independent contractor who slipped in jewelry-cleaning solution in the break room of a jewelry store could pursue a slip and fall case against the store under the doctrine of respondeat superior.