Although the Wollerman ruling created only a permissible inference of negligence, it has been the basis of subsequent court holdings that the defendant must show a lack of negligence by proving to the court he or she acted in a reasonable and prudent manner rather than the injured party having to establish both notice of the hazard by the store owner, and the store owner's breach of that duty by failing to cure the hazard. A victory to the injured victim of a slip and fall injury indeed. This important court ruling, and others like it, has protected the plaintiff (injured victim) from defense lawyers' summary judgment motions when it has been established that 1) a transitory hazard on the business owner's premises caused the injured party to injure himself or herself; and, 2) customers were likely to create transitory hazards under the normal operation of the business. The judge ruled that "it was fair to place the onus of producing evidence" on the defendant business owner that he or he had taken reasonable steps to protect the injured party from a risk of harm inherent in the store's self-service mode of operation.
The Wollerman Rule can also be summarized as follows: "Where substantial risk of harm or injury is implicit in the manner in which a business is conducted, and on the total scene it is fairly probable that the operator is responsible either in creating the hazard or permitting it to arise or to continue, it would be unjust to saddle the plaintiff with the burden of isolating the precise failure."
I routinely use the above rule to help each of my San Diego slip and fall clients. Its arguments are poignant and relevant to many of the cases I see today. Should you have any questions on the use of this rule, simply give me a call at (619) 813-7955.