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Target Corp. v. Kaufer

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

April 25, 2018

TARGET CORPORATION, a foreign for profit corporation, Appellant,
v.
LAZARO KAUFER, and KATIA KAUFER, his wife, Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal and cross-appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; John Thomas Luzzo, Judge; L.T. Case No. CACE10-029778 (09).

          Jon D. Derrevere and Shirley Jean McEachern of Derrevere Stevens Black & Cozad, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Jay M. Levy and Ryan I. Marks of Jay M. Levy, P.A., Miami, and Samuel M. Spatzer of Samuel M. Spatzer, P.A., Miami, for appellees.

          Kuntz, J.

         Target Corporation appeals a final judgment entered in favor of Lazaro Kaufer and Katia Kaufer for injuries sustained from a slip-and-fall accident at one of its stores, raising multiple issues on appeal. Our resolution of the first issue-that the circuit court erred in denying Target's motion for directed verdict-renders the others moot.

         While shopping at a Target store, Mr. Kaufer slipped on some liquid laundry detergent on the floor. The resulting fall injured him, causing him to incur medical expenses. The testimony at trial indicates an unknown person walking in front of Mr. Kaufer was carrying a gallon bottle of "leaking" laundry detergent. Mr. Kaufer slipped on the leaking detergent.

         The Kaufers sued Target for negligence. The jury found Target partially liable for Mr. Kaufer's fall, awarding him $250, 000 in damages and Mrs. Kaufer $30, 000 for loss of consortium. After the trial court denied Target's post-trial motions, Target appealed the final judgment.

         On appeal, Target focuses on the trial court's denial of its motion for directed verdict. We review the court's ruling de novo. Liggett Grp., Inc. v. Davis, 973 So.2d 467, 470 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007).

         Target argued different theories in support of its motion for directed verdict and we address one: that Mr. Kaufer failed to sufficiently plead a prima facie case for negligence under the theory of negligent mode of operation. In response, Mr. Kaufer argued that the negligent mode of operation was Target's "corporate policy of having a clear very high gloss, wet-look finish on its floors in its stores which caused the bright overhead lights to reflect off the tile which created a dangerous condition by causing spills of clear and translucent liquids to be undetectable."

         His claim is governed by section 768.0710, Florida Statutes (2009), which provides, in relevant part:

(2) In any civil action for negligence involving loss, injury, or damage to a business invitee as a result of a transitory foreign object or substance on business premises, the claimant shall have the burden of proving that:
(a) The person or entity in possession or control of the business premises owed a duty to the claimant;
(b) The person or entity in possession or control of the business premises acted negligently by failing to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance, inspection, repair, warning, or mode of operation of the business premises. Actual or constructive notice of the transitory foreign object or substance is not a required element of proof to this claim. However, evidence of notice or ...

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