Case Study: Condo Slip and Fall
A few years back, I had a client who slipped and fell on condensation in the lobby of a condominium complex. The floor was tile and the lobby had no air conditioning to speak of. Talk about a recipe for disaster in humid Florida! We thought that the condominium was aware of the condensation problem because they had put two long skinny rugs in the lobby that seemed to run down the most likely walking paths. Sure, the rugs could have been there for decoration, but we thought better of it.
Side note: In Florida, to bring a claim for damages for a slip and fall on a transitory foreign substance (like condensation) you must prove that the business knew about the substance (i.e., an employee had knowledge the condensation was on the floor BEFORE my client fell), that the substance had been on the floor for a long enough period of time that the business should have known about (i.e., proof of how long the condensation had been on the floor before my client fell), or that the condition occurred with such regularity that it was foreseeable. Florida Statute 768.0755
So, Jimmy Fasig & I drove to the condominium to take the deposition of the two folks the condominium designated as their corporate representatives.
Corporate Representative: When you are in a lawsuit, you can require a corporate defendant to identify the person with the most knowledge about a certain subject area, and designate them as the “corporate representative” for the purposes of answering questions about that designated area.
In this case, the condominium designated two people as their corporate representatives. The deposition of the first corporate representative went how we expected: the deponent towed the party line. After all, he was on the board of the condominium so it was difficult for him to admit that the condominium board had done anything wrong. “No, the condensation did not occur with regularity.” “No, I do not know why those rugs were placed in the lobby.” “No, I do not think the condensation on the floor is a hazard.” “No, I’ve never seen condensation on the floor of the lobby myself.”
Cue Corporate Representative #2. If my memory serves me, we were only five minutes into her deposition when the second corporate representative said the most beautiful five words a personal injury attorney can hope to hear: “It was a known problem.”
This, of course, was followed with a litany of questions to which the second corporate representative spilled the beans. The condominium had known about the condensation problem for a long time, maybe even years. The condo board had decided to put down the long skinny rugs to protect guests from slipping and falling. Yes, of course, the condominium knew it was possible that guests could walk on the exposed parts of the floor not covered by the rugs. Yes, a large portion of the floor is not covered by the rugs. No, the condominium had not put up warning signs to tell guests about the condensation. Yes, I agree that the condensation is a hazard because it is difficult to see and it is slippery.
It was a glorious day for truth and justice! My client’s case settled within the week and my hope is that the condominium lobby got a new AC unit, too.