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B. C. WALLER v. DIXIELAND FOOD STORES

JULY 23, 1986

B. C. WALLER
v.
DIXIELAND FOOD STORES, INC., ET AL



BEFORE WALKER, HAWKINS AND PRATHER

PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This" slip and fall "case originated in the Circuit Court of Smith County. In a negligence action, the jury awarded B. C. Waller a judgment for $44,100.00, but the trial judge entered a judgment notwithstanding the verdict vacating the judgment against the defendant store owner and store manager. Mr. Waller appealed to this Court assigning the following error:

The trial court erred in granting the appellees' motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict because the liability was a jury issue which was properly submitted to the jury at trial and the jury rightfully determined that the appellees were liable.

 I.

 On February 4, 1983, B. C. Waller allegedly slipped and fell on the floor in aisle three of the Piggly Wiggly Supermarket of Taylorsville, Mississippi. Consequently, Mr. Waller filed a negligence action in the Circuit Court of Smith County claiming $185,000.00 in damages. Named as defendants in the suit were Benson Wholesale Co., Inc. (suppliers of Piggly Wiggly), Dixieland Food Stores, Inc., (owners of Piggly Wiggly), and Phillip Skinner (manager of the Taylorsville Piggly Wiggly).

 At the trial Waller testified he slipped in a puddle of pink liquid he estimated to be eight to ten inches in diameter.

 Manager Phillip Skinner testified that the floor of the store had been waxed between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. the morning of the accident, but no pink liquid had been used in waxing the floors. Mr. Skinner testified it was the practice of the manager and the manager's two assistants to periodically walk up and down the aisles of the store to check for debris. He further testified that his own inspection revealed that aisle three was clear of debris at 10:00 a.m. The accident allegedly occurred at 12:30 p.m.

 After the accident occurred, Mr. Skinner was notified and went to aisle three to inspect the spill. His testimony concerning the accident site indicated that the puddle of pink liquid did not appear to have been smeared and did not appear to have been passed through by any traffic.

 At the conclusion of the trial, a directed verdict was granted to Benson Wholesale Co., Inc., but the jury returned a verdict against Dixieland Food Stores and Phillip Skinner, awarding damages of $44,100.00. The trial judge subsequently granted a judgment notwithstanding the verdict stating:

 In this case there is no evidence as to what the object or substance was or how it got there. There is also no evidence as to how long the object or substance had been on the floor. The only evidence as to whether or not the defendant knew that the object or substance was on the floor

 was testimony offered by the defendant that he did not know that the object or substance was on the floor.

 II.

 Did the trial court err in granting appellees' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict?

 In Mississippi, an owner, occupant, or person in charge of a premises owes to an invitee or business visitor a duty to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition or to warn the invitee of dangerous conditions, not readily apparent, which the owner or occupier knows of or should know of in the exercise of reasonable care. Wilson v. Allday, No. 56, 172 (Miss. April 16, ...


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