Have you ever walked into Sacramento’s Arden Fair Mall and noticed yellow or orange, wet-floor caution signs positioned throughout the mall. Lately, we have noticed that more and more restaurants, theaters, coffee shops, grocery stores and shopping malls are placing wet floor caution signs in different locations. They are usually near the restrooms but are frequently elsewhere as well. As a result, the wet floor caution signs are becoming part of many store’s furniture ensembles and are often left out for extended periods of time. As a result, the floor space near the wet floor caution sign does not always look wet and therefore, patrons are generally ignoring the signs; that is human nature.
In fact, we were recently in a Modesto coffee shop and a customer line formed around a wet floor caution sign. None of the customers seemed to acknowledge the wet floor sign. It was as if it did not exist. They walked to the side of it and right up against it. Should these customers have been concerned that a wet floor caution sign was posted near them? Should they have walked slowly and carefully around the sign or left the area?
Evidently, some Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto businesses have now decided that it is best to simply post wet floor caution signs throughout their premises–even leaving them posted for the entire business day. In that way, a customer can’t complain that the store failed to give them notice of a wet floor condition. After all, someone will eventually spill a drink on the floor, or an employee will eventually mop the floor. The floor will, indeed, eventually get wet. Yet, if the floor is not wet when a caution sign is posted, should the property owner or tenant still post a caution sign?
In California, one who owns and/or controls real property is responsible to those injured on his or her property for dangerous conditions causing the claimed injury. The property owner is responsible for such dangerous conditions if he or she knows about the dangerous condition or should have known about it. In that light, the law requires that property owners conduct reasonable inspections of their property. Businesses, such as grocery stores, may be required to inspect their premises more often than other business operations given the likelihood of food, liquids and other store products landing on their floors. The scope and timing of such inspections depend on industry standards.
The property owner can be relieved of this liability if he or she fixes the dangerous condition, protects patrons or adequately warns. Is a business adequately warning a customer when it leaves its wet floor caution signs up all day? Indeed, if the wet floor caution sign remains posted, even when the floor is dry, then those customers who regularly frequent the business will become immune to the sign’s effect. Why take the sign seriously if it is posted when the floor is dry?
It is true that businesses do need to warn of areas where water or liquids are likely to spill but businesses should be careful to ensure that their caution signs do not become a permanent fixture. A property owner’s goal should be to protect and warn customers–not to simply avoid being held liable for injuries.
At Curtis Legal Group, we thoroughly investigate whether a property owner has provided an adequate warning in order to escape liability for a dangerous floor condition. Just because a wet floor caution sign is up doesn’t mean the property owner adequately warned the injured victim. Each case is different and requires a thorough analysis.