Sarasota, FL—Jurors last week found an Osprey, FL Walmart store was not liable for the back and knee injuries a patron claimed she suffered when she slipped on a rain puddle inside the store. Ballesteros v. Walmart, 2011 CA 8899.
Liliana Ballesteros sued Walmart Store 5264, claiming the store’s failure to maintain its roof or properly warn customers of hazards led her to fall while shopping during an October 2009 rainstorm. Ballesteros contended that she slipped in a puddle caused by a leak in the store’s roof and injured her back and knee in the fall. She sought more than $400,000 in past medical expenses alone.
During closing arguments, Ballesteros’ attorney, Carl Reynolds, contended that Walmart failed to adequately inspect the roof and claimed that Ballesteros was entitled to shop without being wary of water hazards on the store’s floor. “You heard (defense construction expert) Mr. (Robert) Koning say yesterday that someone should go into a Walmart and expect that they might run into a leak. I hope you were as shocked as I was,” Reynolds said. “I don’t know about you, but I expect the store will be safe and free of leaks and that the store did all it could to protect me and my family.”
However, the defense argued that the store met its duty to ensure that its roof was in good condition. In closings, Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer’s Peter Mollinelli reminded jurors of evidence that the store had contractors regularly inspect and maintain the roof under the terms of its warranty agreement and that the plaintiff’s visual roof inspection standard was unreasonable given the store’s size. “I’m sorry, a 200,000 square-foot roof, we’re going to go ahead and find a leak that could have been the size of a nailhead?” Mollinelli asked. “That’s the standard that they want to hold us to? Is that reasonable?”
In addition to maintaining its roofs, the defense also said that it adequately warned customers of potential hazards on the day of Ballesteros’ fall. Molinelli reminded jurors that on the day of Ballesteros’ fall, it was raining “very hard,” and store employees had placed a cone near the leak to divert customer traffic and also placed a mat in the area to absorb any water.
The jury needed less than five hours to reach its decision, finding that the store was not negligent in the incident.
Attorneys in the case included Carl Reynolds, of Carl Reynolds Law, representing Lilianna Ballesteros, and Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer's Peter Molinelli and Jeremy Jacobs, representing Walmart Store 5264.
Not a subscriber?