Re-Buffed

by

Kudrov v. Laro Services Systems, Inc. (New York)
(Female Bus Rider Slipped and Fell on Waxed Smooth Floor in Bus Terminal; Court Granted Maintenance Company’s Motion for Summary Judgment for Lack of Evidence; Simply Because Floor was Waxed, Slippery and Smooth Did Not Infer Negligence)

A female bus rider brought a personal injury claim against the bus terminal maintenance company after she slipped and fell on the slippery floor. The trial court denied the maintenance company’s motion for summary judgment, and the company appealed.

On appeal the court noted that plaintiff’s expert essentially stated that the floor was slippery due to the fact that it was made of ceramic tile and was covered with a polyurethane coating. However, the court explained that absent proof of the negligent application of the wax or polish, the mere fact that a floor is slippery by reason of its smoothness or having been polished did not give rise to an inference of negligence. The evidence sufficiently demonstrated that the floor was waxed and dry before the area was opened to the public. As such, the court found no triable issue as to whether defendant was negligent in its application of wax or buffing of the floor, and it granted the maintenance company’s motion.

One judge dissented, highlighting that not only did the plaintiff assert that she slipped and fell on a “shiny, slippery” floor, but she also specifically testified that after she fell, her clothes felt like they had wax all over them. According to the dissent, that testimony should have permitted the the inference that an excessive amount of wax was applied, creating a triable issue as to whether defendant was negligent in its application of wax or buffing of the floor.

NOTE: This case indicates how it can often be difficult for a plaintiff to establish liability for a slip and fall due to a dangerous condition of the premises. Even though the floor may have been objectively slippery, without specific evidence of wrongdoing, there was no liability. Keeping maintenance records and tracking inspections and time-lines can greatly help shift the burden to plaintiffs in these types of cases.

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