Premises Liability – Supermarket Slip and Fall

As discussed in an earlier article,  mode of operation is an exception to the notice requirement to prove slip/fall injuries when the mode of operation of the business creates the risk of injury, such as the supermarket cases.  On February 6, 2015, the Appellate Division in an unreported opinion, Mattia v. Shoprite of Brookdale, A-1906-13T4,  addressed a slip/fall accident when the plaintiff was walking in an area where one side was flanked with cut flowers in pots of water and the other side was a self-service salad bar where various items rested on crushed ice.  Plaintiff fell three feet from the salad bar and seven feet from the flowers, fracturing her coccyx.  Plaintiff found herself in a puddle of water.  The trial judge refused to give the jury the mode of operation charge because plaintiff could not prove the source of the water.

The Appellate Division held that the caselaw does not require plaintiff to specifically identify the source of the slip/trip hazard in order to obtain the benefit of a mode-of-operation charge.  Rather, there must only be a nexus between the merchant’s mode of operation and the slip/trip hazard.  The Appellate Division reversed and remanded the case for a new trial with a mode of operation jury charge.