Myles M. Mattenson
5550 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Suite 200
Woodland Hills, California 91367
Telephone (818) 313-9060
Facsimile (818) 313-9260
A Customer Slips And Falls In Your Coin Laundry.
Are You Liable?

      Myles M. Mattenson engages in a general civil and trial practice including litigation and transactional services relating to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, franchising, business, purchase and sale of real estate, easements, landlord-tenant, partnership, corporate, insurance bad faith, personal injury, and probate legal matters.

      In providing services to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, Mr. Mattenson has represented equipment distributors, coin laundry and dry cleaning business owners confronted with landlord-tenant issues, lease negotiations, sale documentation including agreements, escrow instructions, and security instruments, as well as fraud or misrepresentation controversies between buyers and sellers of such businesses.

      Mr. Mattenson serves as an Arbitrator for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. He is also past chair of the Law Office Management Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Mattenson received his Bachelor of Science degree (Accounting) in 1964 and his Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University School of Law in 1967.

      Bi-monthly articles by Mr. Mattenson on legal matters of interest to the business community appear in alternate months in The Journal, a leading coin laundry industry publication of the Coin Laundry Association, and Fabricare, a leading dry cleaning industry publication of the International Fabricare Institute. During the period of May 1995 through September 2002, Mr. Mattenson contributed similar articles to New Era Magazine, a coin laundry and dry cleaning industry publication which ceased publication with the September 2002 issue.

      This website contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's New Era Magazine articles which can be retrieved through a subject or chronological index. The website also contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's Journal and Fabricare articles, which can be retrieved through a chronological index.

      In addition to Mr. Mattenson's trial practice, he has successfully prosecuted and defended appeals on behalf of his clients in various areas of the law. Some of these appellate decisions are contained within his website.

A Customer Slips And Falls In Your Coin Laundry.
Are You Liable?

     A customer slips and falls on the floor of your coin laundry
and  suffers  substantial injury to his back.   An  ambulance  is
called  to  transport  the customer to a  nearby  hospital.   The
wailing  sound  of  the  siren is heard  less  and  less  as  the
ambulance  travels down the street away from your  coin  laundry.
As  the  siren  sound diminishes, you think more and  more  about
whether   you  paid  your  last  premium  for  business  premises
liability insurance.

     What caused the slip and fall?  Was it liquid soap left over
from  a  customer's carelessness three hours earlier?  Was  it  a
banana  peel dropped upon the floor of your coin laundry  by  the
child of another customer?  Was it that fresh coat of wax you had
just applied to the floor?

     How often do you inspect the floor and other surfaces within
your  coin  laundry for soap spills and other problems?   Do  you
post  any  signs warning customers to be careful and to clean  up
their spills?

      In a situation where it is the substance on the floor which
made  the  floor  dangerous, rather than the  floor  itself,  the
injured customer will have to eventually prove to a judge or jury
that  you  had (1) actual notice, or (2) constructive notice,  of
the defect.

      Actual  notice is found where you have actual knowledge  of
the  problem and have had a reasonable time in which  to  rectify
the   situation.   Constructive  notice,  however,   involves   a
situation  in which, given the passage of time, you  should  have
discovered and rectified the problem.

      In  a  case  originating  in a San Francisco  courtroom,  a
janitor  in  the employ of a building maintenance company  sought
damages for personal injuries he sustained on the premises  of  a
department store to which he was assigned to work.

     The plaintiff's hours of work on Fridays were from 8:00 p.m.
to  4:00  a.m.   During  his initial hour  of  work  on  Fridays,
however, he noted that customers were still in the store, and  as
a  result, he confined his work to emptying waste containers.  He
also  felt  that his work shoes did not "look well" in  front  of
customers, so he wore his street shoes for the initial hour.

      During the course of that first hour, he noticed dust on  a
ledge  between  the  first and second floors  of  the  department
store.   The  plaintiff started to descend  a  stairway  to  this
ledge.   As he "took his first downward step and before his  hand
grasped the railing, [his] right foot slipped out from under him,
and  he fell down the stairway with his hands in the air and  his
feet before him.  He landed on his back . . . ."

      A  salesman within the department store came to his aid and
"picked  up a dry piece of banana peel from the front portion  of
the step and said, 'This is what you slipped on.'"  According  to
the  plaintiff, either the salesman or the assistant  manager  of
the  store  stated "'That's the darn kids that have been  playing

      In  approving a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, the
Court of Appeal observed:

                 "The  question  is  whether,  in   the
          circumstances,  it  can be  inferred  that  a
          dangerous  condition had existed for  such  a
          length  of  time as to justify  charging  the
          defendant  with  lack  of  ordinary  care  in
          failing to discover and remedy it before  the
          plaintiff  was injured . . .  .   It  may  be
          conceded that ordinary care in the case of  a
          public   market  involves  a  more   vigilant
          outlook  than  in  the case of  an  apartment
          house lobby."

The  Court of Appeal also observed that the department store  had
made  no inspection of the stairway since the plaintiff had  quit
his work at 1:20 a.m. the previous morning.

     Bananas, aside from being a good source of potassium, supply
a substantial number of lawsuits for review by the courts!

     In another matter originating in a Safeway store in Gridley,
California, a woman went to the cashier's stand, got in line with
her  ten year old son, and while standing there, noticed that she
had  forgotten to get some lemons.  She left her son in the  line
and  went  back to the fruit and vegetable section to obtain  the
lemons. "After taking only a step or two she slipped on a  banana
and  fell." She shortly thereafter "saw a squashed banana on  the
floor, a mark on the floor which her shoe had made and banana  on
her dress, shoe and hose."

      The  Court of Appeal, in ordering the trial court to permit
the case to proceed to a full trial, noted that the record showed
that  no inspection of the area had been made for a period of  at
least 30 minutes before the accident.  The Court concluded that

                "Concededly a person operating a  fruit
          and vegetable section in a store should . . .
          in the exercise of ordinary care, maintain  a
          more  vigilant outlook than would be required
          in  the  operation  of  some  other  type  of
          business  where the danger of things  falling
          on the floor upon which a person might easily
          slip and fall is not so obvious."

      In  another  case  originating at a  gasoline  station  and
parking  lot  on  Grand Avenue in Los Angeles,  a  woman  made  a
telephone call from a public telephone booth on the property.  As
she stepped out of the booth, "she slipped on an oily spot . .  .
and  thereby  suffered a severe injury to her left  ankle."   The
incident  occurred  at approximately 3:30 p.m.;  trial  testimony
indicated  that  "every morning about 7:30 one of  the  employees
sweeps  out  the  booth  --  that it receives  no  other  regular
attention."   Since the evidence demonstrated that  the  premises
had  not  been  inspected  in eight hours  the  Court  of  Appeal
instructed  the  trial  court  to permit  a  full  trial  of  the
plaintiff's claim that the owner had constructive notice  of  the
oil spot and failed to eliminate the hazard.

      How much time do you think the judges that considered these
cases  would  give  you  to  inspect  your  coin  laundry  before
concluding  that you should have discovered, for example,  liquid
soap on your floor during a busy Saturday?

[This column is intended to provide general information only  and
is  not intended to provide specific legal advice; if you have  a
specific  question  regarding the  law,  you  should  contact  an
attorney  of your choice.  Suggestions for topics to be discussed
in this column are welcome.]

Reprinted from New Era Magazine
Myles M. Mattenson  1996-2002