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Friday, September 20, 2019

Court reverses judgment in slip and fall injury to Kroger customer

State Court

By Charmaine Little | Aug 26, 2019

Texas First District Court of Appeals Justice Julie Countiss |

HOUSTON -- The Texas First Court of Appeals reversed a judgment Aug. 22 that originally favored Kroger after a shopper said she was injured in a slip and fall near the water dispenser.

Justice Sarah Beth Landau wrote the opinion. Justices Russell Lloyd and Julie Countiss concurred.

Kroger initially responded to Julieth Mendoza Hernandez’s lawsuit with a no-evidence motion for summary judgment, which was granted in Fort Bend County District Court. Mendoza allegedly suffered injuries after slipping and falling on water in a Kroger aisle. Kroger argued that there was no evidence that it had knowledge of the water being on the ground, and the lower court agreed. 

Mendoza appealed, arguing that she presented plenty of evidence to prove that Kroger was aware of the water as Kroger workers testified that the aisle is evaluated and cleaned regularly. But the appeals court pointed out that this does not prove how long the actual spill that impacted Mendoza was present before her fall.

Still, the appeals court did note that Mendoza offered summary-judgment proof that the dispenser was halfway down the grocery aisle, not on a corner or an area that was specifically for the dispenser. 

“At this location, any customer intending to shop on aisle four, as well as customers who, like Mendoza, were using [the aisle] as a path to another destination to the store without slowing to select products or scan the aisle, would be near the water dispenser,” the appeals court ruled. Because store managers also took the witness stand and said they knew about plenty of spills in the area, the appeals court determined there was enough evidence to prove that Kroger knew of a potential danger.

In her incident, Mendoza was shopping in a Kroger. Upon checking out, she saw that she had the wrong kind of milk, so she went back to the dairy area, picked up the correct milk and went down aisle four to return to the cash register. However, Mendoza said she did not realize there was water on the floor. She ended up slipping and falling near a self-serve water dispenser, hurting her back, knees and hand.

The manager at the time of Mendoza’s fall said it was not unusual for customers to spill water at the station. The store typically puts a mat in front of it to stop a fall. The manager on duty said that the area is cleaned and dried up to two times daily. He added that he had not heard of any complaints where a customer fell in the area prior to Mendoza’s incident. Although Kroger does not argue that there was water on the floor, it alleged that there is no evidence it was aware of the water.

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