Oral Argument Preview: Correa v. Woodman’s Food Market (Personal Injury)

On Jan. 21, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Correa v. Woodman’s Food Market, which will address the standards of proof for establishing constructive notice of a hazard and the determinations a jury may make from video surveillance in premises liability cases.


Facts & Lower Court Decisions

In this case, plaintiff Jose Correa slipped and fell on an unidentified substance in a Woodman’s store and subsequently filed negligence and safe-place-statute (Wis. Stat. § 101.11(1)) claims against Woodman’s. A trial court found Woodman’s negligent and awarded Correa nearly $170,000 in damages. Woodman’s appealed, arguing Correa’s evidence that Woodman’s had constructive notice of the spill was speculative.

The Court of Appeals found that Correa could not prove the spill by which he was injured existed for a long enough time period to establish the store was negligent. Video footage before the accident did not show a spill happening and could not identify any substance on the floor of the store. Because Correa lacked sufficient evidence, the appeals court ruled in favor of the store.


Issues Presented at Supreme Court

When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments this month, justices will revisit the court’s position in Kochanski v. Speedway SuperAmerica (2014 WI 72).  Kochanski similarly dealt with whether juries can draw reasonable inferences from existing video surveillance in premises liability cases. In Correa, the Supreme Court will review whether the Court of Appeals improperly expanded the Kochanski holding and will generally revisit its position on the role of video surveillance in constructive notice in premises liability claims.