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Coffee v. F.W. Woolworth Co – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Coffee v. F.W. Woolworth Co., 526 S.W.2d 793 (Tex. Civ. App.--Corpus Christi 1975), rev'd, 536 S.W.2d 539, the plaintiff was injured when she fell over a low-lying, empty platform intended to hold merchandise. 536 S.W.2d at 540.

At trial, there was a dispute whether Woolworth and its employees were aware of the empty platform, but the jury found Woolworth, through its employees, had constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition. Id.

The court of appeals reversed the trial court, finding that the record was devoid of any direct evidence that Woolworth had actual knowledge that the platform was empty.

The Texas Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, reasoning that--because the store's policy was to avoid letting its platforms become empty from normal-course customer purchases--the jury could have reasonably inferred that the platform was empty because store personnel created the condition when changing displays; therefore, the defendants had actual notice. Coffee, 536 S.W.2d at 540-41.