The Importance of Sweep Logs in California Slip and Fall Cases

Employee inspecting store for sweep logThe law in California has clearly established the business owner's duty to inspect, maintain, and make safe the business premises; especially if any hazard or defect is found on the premises. This is to protect the public, patrons, or customers from any potential slip and fall accidents and personal injuries. For this to be effective, the inspections must be done frequently enough to recognize in a reasonable way any hazards so they can be identified and proper clean-up action can be completed.
Usually, a store owner will do hourly sweeping and intermediate inspections of the general sales area; they will store this information in what is called a sweep log. When this follow-up system of keeping and maintaining a good sweep log breaks down, then slip and fall accidents unfortunately happen! The sweeping records, sheets, or logs are the only practical means in California, and in every state in the United States, of determining that safety inspections have occurred according to the company or retail store's internal safety policy. These sweeping logs have become extremely effective in establishing the elusive constructive notice of a business owner towards a floor hazard.

Let's take a look at the following slip and fall case:

A well-known supermarket chain implemented a new safety program that substantially reduces the chances of patron-related slip and fall claims. Part of the safety program consisted of hourly sweep logs of the entire floor of the store, half-hourly sweeping of the front lobby and vegetable department, twice hourly inspection by primary management personnel who are well trained on hazard control, and the use of customer safety mats in high traffic areas of the produce department and near the entrance way of doors. Every sweep is mandatory to be logged in the sweep log or sweep sheets using an electronic time clock. The sweeping sheets were to be periodically reviewed by the store manager and risk management personnel, and this intense and detailed safety program proved to be very effective in reducing the number of customer slip and fall accidents and gave the store an excellent defense to the few claims that were litigated in a courtroom.

In this particular slip and fall case, the plaintiff was walking by an instant beverage display when she actually slipped on some powdery film from a drink mix that leaked from one of the instant beverage packages; the actual powder was visible on close inspection but somewhat difficult to see on a casual glance, and it made the floor very slippery. Upon a close exam of this store's diligent sweep logs or sweep sheets, it showed a gap of approximately one hour and 44 minutes between sweepings...and store managers all testified that all the normal inspections and safety walk-throughs were timely completed; thus, the defense lawyers defended this case on "lack of notice of any danger." However, the defendant store could not come up with a reasonable explanation of the missing sweep note for the gap prior to the slip and fall accident, except that an employee who would have been responsible for notating may have simply forgotten to put the notation in the sweep log. After the testimony of the managers and employees, the jury eventually found that the defendant store would have known about the beverage powder being on the floor had it followed its own diligent sweep logging methods for inspection and sweeping.

Thus, the "death knell" of the above case example was that gap in time in the sweep log and the jury found the store breached its duty of due care to the injured party. The plaintiff could then establish constructive notice of the danger and win the case. Keep in mind, in other similar cases where the store had no gaps of time in the sweep log, the plaintiffs could not establish the same constructive notice arguments. The business store owner's duty to the customer does not require super extraordinary care or effort in slip and fall injury and accident prevention; it only requires a reasonable standard of care!

Mark Blane
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San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer | California Car Accident Attorney
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Celina 12/08/2015 11:42 PM
What about a case of slip and fall where the grocery store owner claimed to have vedio evidence of sweeping and a customer unknowingly or did not see the potential hazard, fell down and sustained significant injuries. Is the store liable in any way.
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