Pick a Story and Stick With it, or Face Summary Judgment Dismissal.

In Flahive v. Union College, plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell while attending a banquet at defendant’s campus.  After the fall, plaintiff noticed that his clothes were wet, and that there was soapy water on the floor. Plaintiff attributed the water to improper drainage of dishwashing machines located 30 feet from where he fell.

Defendant moved for summary judgment presenting evidence that no one witnessed the wet floor, and that there were no reports of liquids or fluids on the floor.  In addition, defendant described in detail its clean-up procedures, which included cleaning the floor immediately if any fluid or liquid was noticed. Defendant also demonstrated that it routinely inspected the dishwashing units and held safety meetings to ensure everything was functioning properly. Finally, defendant relied upon plaintiff’s testimony that he walked through the area four to six times before he allegedly fell, without noticing any water or liquid on the floor.

In opposition, plaintiff argued that defendant created the condition by negligently mopping the floor.  However, both the trial and appellate courts found that plaintiff had absolutely no evidence that defendant mopped the floor, and held that the argument was based upon mere speculation.  As a result, defendant was awarded summary judgment, and the case was dismissed.  Always remember – hold plaintiffs to their proof, and do not let them speculate!


Thanks to Alison Weintraub for her contribution to this post.