Must I Know Why the Floor was Slippery?

One of the questions we get at Shaw Law most often is whether a business store floor or restaurant floor was “too slippery” so as to be negligent on the part of the landowner.

And oftentimes, our answer of “that depends” can leave some people unimpressed. But, the answer is a truthful one.

“Slipperiness” can depend upon a wide variety of factors such as the composition of the floor, the type of footwear used, whether the floor was clean or dirty and if foreign substances or liquids were present on the floor and even the method of human locomotion at the time can affect the determination.

For example, anybody who has played basketball on a wooden floor at a gymnasium and then walked upon the same floor in dress shoes can tell you -- slipperiness is not the same even when the surface of the floor remains constant.

Today, measuring the “coefficient of friction” of any store, restaurant or business flooring is an industry-wide standard to help determine if a floor or walkway was “too slippery” for the average customer.

Must I Know Exactly What Caused the Floor to be Slippery?

Not exactly. Whether a floor was “too slippery” is an important consideration under Indiana law which requires the injured party to explain what he or she fell upon. It’s clearly not enough to merely say “I fell” upon somebody’s property and attempt to recover damages. Proving that a defect existed of some kind is an essential requirement before an injured person can recover – even though a slip and fall occurred and injuries happened.

Luckily for injured persons, the law doesn’t require a person to know exactly the type of material that caused the fall or to have seen it before falling (in fact, that would lead to the perverse requirement that a person sees and appreciate the danger he or she fell upon). Establishing a “defect” is good enough. For example, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that a department store customer who said she fell upon a small rock or BB-type object was good enough to proceed to trial because there was sufficient evidence of a defect on the floor created by her testimony. Golba v. Kohl’s Sore, Inc. (1992), Ind.App., 585 N.E.2d, 14, 17 (Ind.Ct.App. 1992). In other words, it looks like Indiana courts will allow injured persons to go to trial if they can establish something out-of-the-ordinary on floors caused the slip and fall – even if the exact type of thing cannot be established.

Another common method of proving a defect includes the injured person who feels wetness upon their clothes after the wall – even if they didn’t see the liquid at any time. A liquid on a floor where it is not usually encountered can be considered a “defect” and the injured person can proceed to recovery under that type of testimony. This makes perfectly good sense because often the injured person didn’t see the liquid prior to the slip and fall and the liquid itself can be absorbed by the clothing of the injured person who fell upon it.

Back to Slippery Floors – How do We Test Slipperiness?

It’s long been known that slip and falls can be dangerous for people. It’s also been known that some floors can be more slippery than others for a variety of reasons. Even a seemingly dry floor can be too slippery that its condition is considered legally “defective.” This can occur for many reasons, including the type of cleaning agents used upon a floor, when it was dried, if it was still dirty, and other factors.

The first known study to test the slipperiness of floors occurred in a famous study by the United States Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards in its 1948 study “Measurement of the Slipperiness of Walkway Surfaces.” This study was the first to use a pendulum-impact type device to measure slipperiness that has become the gold standard today in the industry. This ingenious study determined that most people who slip and fall do so when their front heel hits the ground – like a pendulum – so the device was used. The device has now become the industry standard and is accepted by the ASTM F2508 testing standards. Other devices have come along that do similar testing such as the Tortus digital tribometer.

The findings of that 1948 study by the National Bureau of Standards have led to commonplace questions in every slip and fall investigation -- – rubber heels are better than smooth leather soles, many floors are more slippery wet than dry and rough particles added to the walkway surface can help a floor’s resistance to slip accidents.

Shaw Law employs a wide array of expert witnesses through the years who measure the coefficient of friction of all types of floors in stores, restaurants, and businesses throughout Indiana using all of the industry-accepted measurement devices. Come see us for straight talk about your injury case after you trip and fall or slip and fall.

We get you back on your feet.