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Recently, an appellate court addressed whether a res ipsa loquitur jury instruction was appropriate in a Florida premises liability case. The case arose when an attorney was visiting her client in an Orange County jail. As she was passing through the security gate, the gate unexpectedly slammed down onto her, causing her to suffer injuries. The plaintiff pursued a lawsuit against the Orange County jail. At trial, she requested the court to provide a res ipsa loquitur instruction to the jury. After losing at trial, the County appealed, requesting a new trial, arguing that the instruction was inappropriate.

Res ipsa loquitur is an evidentiary rule that shifts a plaintiff’s burden of proof to the defendant. The doctrine translates to “the thing speaks for itself”, and applies in cases where a court can infer negligence from the fundamental nature of an accident or injury. Plaintiffs who wish to prove a claim under the doctrine must meet three elements:

  1. Direct proof of negligence is unavailable;

Recently, the Supreme Court of Florida answered a certified question regarding the state’s current summary judgment standard. The lower court certified a question asking the court whether there should be an exception to the summary judgment standard when the moving party has video evidence that refutes any evidence that the non-moving party presents.

The case arose after a fatal Florida rear-end car accident. The decedent’s estate filed a lawsuit against the front-car driver and the driver’s employer. At trial, the court relied on the front-car driver’s video evidence showing that the driver was not negligent. However, the appellate court reversed, stating that the trial court “improperly weighed’ conflicting evidence, leading to the certified question.

In the last year, the Florida Supreme Court advised the public of its intention to adopt the summary judgment standard explained by the United States Supreme Court. The court explained that despite the similarities, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure had not been aligned. The first difference stems from Florida courts’ refusal to recognize the similarities between summary judgment standards and directed verdicts. Next, Florida courts place the burden on the moving party to disprove the other party’s case theory, to successfully eliminate any issue of fact. Federal courts discharge the moving party’s burden when there is an absence of evidence to support the other party’s case. Finally, Florida courts permit a broad understanding of what amounts to a “genuine issue of material fact”, where the “slightest doubt” is enough to preclude summary judgment. Florida courts have announced that the federal standard best serves the civil procedure rules, and the change will take place in May 2021.

A federal district court recently issued an opinion in a plaintiffs’ appeal in a case involving their daughter’s death. The case arose from a tragic Florida car accident that occurred on New Year’s Day.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was driving his mother’s sports car with the plaintiffs’ teenage daughter and another passenger. The driver accelerated to above the speed limit, losing control, and slamming into trees and a lamppost. The driver and another passenger survived the collision, but the plaintiffs’ daughter died at the scene. The state pursued criminal charges against the driver, and the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death suit against the driver, his mother, and the other passenger. However, they could not obtain service on the passenger and dropped him from the lawsuit.

The driver claimed he did not obtain his mother’s consent to drive any of her vehicles, including her golf cart or Porsche sports car. Moreover, the mother testified that she was aware that her son did not have a driver’s license, and she did not permit him to drive her Porsche. The mother moved for summary judgment based on her affidavit and her son’s deposition. In response, the plaintiff presented evidence that the mother permitted her son to drive her golf cart. Further, the plaintiffs contended that the mother presented conflicting evidence regarding whether she ever expressly told her son not to drive her vehicles. The plaintiffs also asked the court to continue the summary judgment motion because they were facing challenges deposing the other passenger. The mother argued that the plaintiffs were causing the delay.

A leading market research company report indicates that global toy sales are a steadily increasing multi-billion-dollar industry. Every year, manufacturers release nearly 5,000 new toys into the consumer stream. Many of these products are fast-tracked with growing competition, leading to shoddily constructed and potentially dangerous toys. If a child suffers injuries because of a defective toy, their family may recover under Florida’s product liability laws.

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that over 200,000 children receive treatment at hospital emergency rooms because of injuries related to defective toys. In some cases, the child misuses the toy; however, many of these injuries are caused by the toy’s dangerous propensity. According to the most recent data published by the CPSC from 2018, there were 17 toy-related fatalities among children under 15-years-old. The majority of fatalities were related to non-motorized scooters. Other fatalities were related to motor vehicle involvement and drownings. The next set of toys involved were rubber balls, stuffed toys and doll accessories, and water toys. Other notable tragic deaths were related to balloon choking, plastic toy food, water guns, and toy dart guns. The report also shows there were almost 230,000 toy-related injuries for all ages treated in U.S. emergency rooms. Toy-related injuries can range in severity; however, many accidents lead to brain injuries, fractures, burns and puncture wounds. In some cases, these injuries can result in life-long disability and pain.

In light of this harrowing data and in conjunction with the influx of toys, many children received over the holidays, and during the lock down, parents should examine toys for potential hazards. If a child suffers an injury because of a defective product, Florida permits three main types of product liability lawsuits: manufacturing defect claims, design defect claims, and failure to warn claims.

The Home Depot recently issued a voluntary recall of an indoor/outdoor fan sold in their retail stores and online. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), reported that they received nearly 50 reports of blades detaching from the fan. Those that have suffered injuries from a defective fan may have a Florida product liability claim. The Home Depot voluntarily announced the recall, stating that they stopped selling the products when they discovered the issue. It is unclear whether the detaching blade hit or injured individuals, but there have been reports that the blades caused property damage. According to the CPSC, about 182,000 fans were sold in the United States, and close to 9,000 were sold in Canada.

In Florida, manufacturers have a legal duty to ensure that their products are safe for consumers and those that use their products. When a person suffers an injury, or dies because of a defective product, they file a claim based on the company’s strict liability or negligence. Florida product liability claims require that a plaintiff establishes that they suffered an actual injury or monetary loss because of the product. These claims are generally based on the product’s defective design, manufacturer, or the fact that the manufacturer knew or should have known the risks and failed to warn users.

After establishing the injury and theory, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the alleged defect proximately caused their injuries and losses. Defendants often argue that they should not be liable because the plaintiff failed to use the product appropriately. As such, plaintiffs must establish that they used the product in a way that the manufacturer intended or should have expected a reasonable person to use it.

Oral contraceptives and other types of hormonal and non-hormonal birth control devices are necessary and life-changing for many women who want to take charge of their fertility, address premenstrual syndrome conditions, and control some forms of acne. However, despite rigorous testing, many hormonal birth controls have side effects that may result in serious injuries and illnesses to their users. After taking an oral contraceptive or the insertion of an intrauterine device, individuals who suffer injuries may file a Florida dangerous drug lawsuit to recover for their injuries.

Many of these pills and devices contain a synthetic form of progestin. Although most women adjust to the pills, or do not suffer serious side effects, others experience significant medical side effects. Some side effects include deep vein thrombosis, venous thromboembolism (blood clots), heart attack, stroke, organ damage, or even death. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires pharmaceutical companies to improve their warning labels, women continue to suffer complications from these medications. In some cases, the warning labels are inadequate and do not clearly include the list of side effects. In other situations, doctors fail to assess their patients appropriately before prescribing the medication.

For instance, a circuit court of appeals recently issued an opinion in an unsafe oral contraceptive lawsuit relevant to Florida product liability plaintiffs. In that case, a woman suffered a debilitating stroke after taking an oral contraceptive, known to increase the risk of blood clots. The woman and her husband filed a lawsuit against the drug manufacturer for failure to provide an adequate warning of stroke risk. In response, the company moved to dismiss the claim, alleging that the learned intermediary doctrine limits their liability.

We’ve all driven by car accidents on the road, usually during a slow down or while authorities are still clearing a crash. How often, however, do you see people stopping to help who aren’t local law enforcement or emergency personnel? Do Florida residents have an obligation or responsibility to stop and help when they witness a major accident?

According to a recent news report, a young man was killed while assisting others involved in a significant car accident. After a crash between two vehicles in front of the young man, he pulled onto the shoulder of the road and ran across the interstate to see if he could help. While the young man was assisting the individuals involved in the crash, another pickup truck veered off the road and crashed into him and the other two cars involved in the initial accident. The pickup truck driver was not injured, but the young man who was assisting was killed on impact.

Although there is no legal obligation to rescue someone in the event of an accident in Florida, if someone is injured in the process of voluntarily rescuing someone, they may be able to recover compensation. In Florida, the rescue doctrine is available to rescuers injured while involved in a reasonable and necessary rescue effort. This law allows the rescuer to potentially recover damages from the party or parties who caused the rescue situation. Florida law holds the at-fault party responsible not only for the damage caused to the victim in the initial accident, but also to any individuals who get involved in the rescue effort.

Recently, a news report described a harrowing Florida rear-end car accident that took the life of a 19-year-old woman. The woman was driving south on the Florida Turnpike when an SUV driver failed to slow his vehicle and slammed into the woman’s car. The woman’s vehicle veered into the barrier wall, and she was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

After a Florida rear-end accident, those who suffer injuries or damages are entitled to pursue a claim for compensation for their losses and damages. Under state law, there is a “rebuttable presumption” of negligence doctrine in rear-end accidents. The presumption serves as a valuable tool for plaintiffs wishing to recover damages; however, it is important to note that, as the name suggests, defendants can rebut the presumption.

In typical Florida car accident lawsuits, plaintiffs maintain the burden of establishing all four elements of a negligence claim: duty, breach of the duty, causation, and damages. A rebuttable presumption is an evidentiary tool that provides that the rear vehicle driver bears the burden of providing evidence to refute their presumed negligence, or explain their failure to avoid the crash.

Individuals charged under Florida’s driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) statutes may face criminal and civil charges. Under the criminal system, the state must prove that the defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Whereas, the burden is much lower in the civil system, and plaintiffs must only establish liability by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Although criminal charges are not necessary to a successful Florida personal injury lawsuit, they can certainly play a role in the outcome.

When someone suffers an injury, or dies after a Florida DUI accident, they or their families may recover damages from the responsible party. Families who wish to recover damages should understand the steps necessary to successfully establishing liability. One of the first factors courts will consider is whether the defendant was negligent or driving under the influence or while impaired. The courts will review whether the driver was showing signs of impairment after the accident. It is also essential that plaintiffs submit evidence of the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). However, currently, Florida does not have specific BAC testing requirements; therefore, it is up to the officer’s discretion whether they decide to conduct a test. Next, proving fault in a DUI accident requires the plaintiff to present evidence regarding the defendant’s intoxication level. Finally, it is important to establish whether the driver acted negligently and put the public at risk.

Evidence is critical in every personal injury case, but it is imperative in cases involving negligent per se. Negligence per se occurs when a person violates a statute created to protect a particular group of people, and the damage caused by the violation was the kind the statute was designed to protect. Negligence per se is often applicable in Florida DUI and DWI cases. Some critical pieces of evidence are police reports, witness accounts and statements, BAC testing results, medical records, and expert opinion testimony. It is important that victims and their families consult with an attorney because these accidents can cause serious long-term repercussions.

According to data gathered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Florida continually ranks in the top five states with the highest trucking accident rates. Data also reveals that Florida trucking accidents resulting in severe injuries and fatalities occur more than three times than that of the national average. These harrowing statistics reveal a disturbing trend that can have a lifelong impact on truck accident victims and their families.

Every year close to 150,000 individuals suffer injuries in an accident involving a semi-truck, and close to 700 semi-truck occupants die in these crashes. Most recent annual statistics by the FMCSA reports that Florida trucking accidents killed nearly 30 people, incapacitated 57, and over 1000 suffered other serious injuries. Despite advances in safety mechanisms, increased training, and monitoring, these accidents continue to occur at an alarming rate. It is critical that motorists take steps to protect themselves while sharing the road with large trucks, especially if they are traveling on particularly hazardous roadways.

There are particular roads and highways in Florida that are prone to large truck accidents. For example, I-95 stretches across the state and has over 300,000 motorists every day. Understandably, the high rate of vehicles on the road corresponds with the significant number of accidents on the road. However, there is also a large number of accidents that occur on the stretch north of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Florida’s Interstate 10 and the 11-county stretch of the Florida Turnpike are also considered some of the most dangerous roadways in the state and country.

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