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Chartwell Partner C. Mark Vazzana Wins Summary Judgment in Florida Premises Liability Case

Florida
September 12, 2019
April 13, 2018
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C. Mark Vazzana, recently obtained summary judgment in favor of a Chartwell client in the case of Octavio Corona Diaz v. Whole Foods Market Group, Inc.  

Plaintiff alleged that on February 2, 2014, while shopping at the Whole Foods Market in North Miami, Florida, he slipped and fell on a puddle of soup that had been left on the floor.  Although plaintiff immediately stood up and walked out of the store without assistance, his alleged injuries and damages were staggering.  Plaintiff claimed injury to his lumbar spine, cervical spine, and both knees as a result of his fall.  Curiously, plaintiff underwent the following procedures in the months and years after his incident:  arthroscopic left knee surgery; medial branch blocks to lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine; epidural steroid injections to lumbar and cervical spine; and steroid injections to his right knee.  Plaintiff’s experts also claimed he was a candidate for an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.  In total, plaintiff claimed to have incurred $96,776.11 in medical bills.  In addition to that, plaintiff also brought forth claims for lost wages, future lost wages, and pain and suffering.  Plaintiff demanded $750,000.00.

The facts of this case were very challenging as one of defendant’s employees was seemingly being advised of the spilled soup at the exact time that plaintiff’s incident occurred; and another employee was seemingly being advised that a spill had occurred in another section of the store mere seconds before the plaintiff’s slip and fall occurred.  However, Florida law is very clear that the above referenced pattern of facts do not constitute “actual knowledge” and Mr. Vazzana argued successfully that if a grocery store does not have sufficient opportunity to correct a dangerous condition, it cannot be held liable on the basis of actual notice.  

In its Order granting summary judgment, the court ruled that plaintiff had no competent evidence to prove that Whole Foods had “actual knowledge” that a puddle of soup was on the floor prior to the slip and fall.  Furthermore, it was clear from the high definition store video that Whole Foods did not create the dangerous condition, but that it was caused by another customer who accidentally spilled her container of soup onto the floor.  The Court further ruled that Whole Foods had presented competent evidence that no actual knowledge existed, and that it did not have sufficient opportunity to correct the dangerous condition, nor warn of any dangerous condition prior to plaintiff’s incident.  Plaintiff failed to provide competent evidence to the contrary.  As such, summary judgment was granted.

Furthermore, as the result of an earlier Proposal for Settlement for $5,000.00, Whole Foods Market was entitled to attorney's fees and costs in excess of $40,000.00 as a result of Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment being granted.

Mr. Vazzana frequently represents large national self-insured companies and domestic insurers in the defense of premises liability, insurance fraud, trucking accidents, automobile accidents, products liability and general liability claims. He is admitted to practice before the State and Federal Courts in Florida.