E-commerce is responsible for a growing share of all retail sales. As a general matter, when a dangerous product injures a consumer, any company in the supply chain can be held liable through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. A recent federal appellate court decision clarifies the situations in which large online retailers can be held responsible for products that are sold on their sites.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiffs’ purchased a hoverboard on Amazon.com (Amazon). The hoverboard was sold on Amazon’s website, but was sold by a third-party seller. Neither Amazon nor the third-party seller manufactured the hoverboard. However, there was conflicting evidence whether the item was sold through Amazon’s “fulfilled by Amazon” (FBA) program.

The FBA program was essentially a drop-shipping agreement by which third-party sellers would pay Amazon and send their products to an Amazon warehouse. When an item was purchased, Amazon would ship the product. Aside from storing and shipping the product, Amazon had no role in selling the product, including setting the price or advertising the hoverboard, and never took ownership of the item. The hoverboard arrived in an Amazon box, and the plaintiffs believed that Amazon sold it. There was also conflicting evidence regarding whether Amazon retained payment for the hoverboard.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida slip-and-fall case discussing the state’s pleading requirements and whether the plaintiff’s complaint sufficiently alleged a claim against the defendant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s complaint was sufficient, reversing the lower court’s decision and allowing her claim to proceed towards trial.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she tripped and fell while at the local library. Evidently, the plaintiff was making copies when the bottom drawer of the copy machine “flew wide open” without any warning. As a result, the plaintiff tripped and landed on her knees. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the library, claiming that the library “owned the photocopier and had a duty to use reasonable care in maintaining the machine to ensure that it was safe for use by patrons.”

On the library’s motion, the court overseeing the plaintiff’s case determined that the plaintiff failed to state a cause of action and dismissed her claims. Specifically, the court held that the plaintiff did not plead a case that, if proven, would have entitled her to damages. The plaintiff appealed the dismissal of her case.

Each year, thousands of people are injured in Florida workplace accidents. Often, these accidents result in serious injury that requires an employee to undergo medical treatment, reducing or eliminating the employee’s ability to work. In severe cases, employees must take months off work and may not ever be able to return to work in the same capacity as before the injury.

Florida law provides injured workers with two avenues of potential compensation for their injuries. The first is through a Florida workers’ compensation claim. The benefits of a workers’ compensation claim are that it will not require an injured employee to establish that their employer was at fault and, in addition, the process of obtaining benefits is a quick one. However, the damages that are available in a workers’ compensation claim are limited, and do not include compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

Florida workplace accident victims may also be able to pursue a personal injury case against one or more parties. Before getting into the specifics of a personal injury case, it is critical that injured workers understand that not every workplace accident can be the basis of a personal injury lawsuit. Under Florida Statutes Section 440.11, a workers’ compensation claim is an injured employee’s sole remedy against their employer in most cases. As a result, a personal injury case may not ordinarily be filed against an employer. However, third-party claims are permitted. A third-party claim is a personal injury claim filed against a non-employer third-party.

One of the most important legal doctrines that all accident victims should understand is the concept of comparative fault. While some Florida personal injury accidents are solely the fault of one party, many accidents involve a situation where the parties share responsibility for that accident. The doctrine of comparative fault determines which parties involved in an accident can recover for their injuries.

Under Florida Statutes section 768.81, any “contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.” This means that an accident victim’s negligence will be considered by the jury, and will be used to reduce the victim’s overall recovery amount, but will not completely prevent them from recovering for their injuries from any at-fault parties.

While some states prohibit an accident victim who is more than 50% at fault from pursuing a claim, Florida law employs the “pure” comparative negligence model, meaning a plaintiff can bring a claim even if they are found to be more than 50% at fault. For example, assume a Florida car accident victim is found to be 30% liable for causing the collision, and the only other driver involved is determined to be 70% at fault. If the plaintiff’s damages were $500,000, then the plaintiff would be entitled to recover $500,000 less 30%, or $350,000.

While juries can determine the appropriate amount of compensation to award a plaintiff, a jury’s award must be consistent. On May 29, 2019, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida car accident case holding that the jury’s zero-dollar award for the plaintiff’s claim of past non-economic damages was legally insufficient because it was inconsistent with the jury’s determination that the plaintiff suffered injuries that required medical treatment.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was stopped at a red light when he was struck by another car. Evidently, the defendant made an illegal left turn into the intersection and hit a vehicle that then struck the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff did not receive medical care at the scene and did not go to the hospital after the accident.

Nearly four years after the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the car as well as the owner of the car. The plaintiff claimed that the driver was negligent in causing the accident and that the owner of the vehicle was negligent in entrusting her vehicle to the driver. The defendant acknowledged that the defendant driver was responsible for causing the accident, and so the trial proceeded only on the issue of damages.

When a Florida car accident is caused by someone who was working at the time of the accident, anyone injured as a result of the employee’s negligence may be able to pursue a claim against both the employee and the employer through the doctrine of vicarious liability. The doctrine of vicarious liability allows accident victims to hold one party liable for the negligent acts of another party, even if the employer was not alleged to be directly at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries.

In the case of employer liability, a Florida accident victim must be able to establish that the employee’s actions that are the basis of the plaintiff’s claim were:  1.) within the scope of their employment, and 2.) during the course of employment and to further a purpose or interest of the employer. If these elements are met, the plaintiff can name the at-fault party as well as their employer as defendants, regardless of whether the employer had any reason to know that the employee presented a danger to others.

Florida accident victims can also pursue a claim of primary negligence against an at-fault party’s employer based on the employer’s own negligence. Unlike claims alleging vicarious liability, these claims require the plaintiff to establish that an employer was somehow negligent. Examples of primary liability claims against an employer are negligent hiring and negligent retention claims. A recent case illustrates one way an accident victim can pursue a claim against an at-fault driver’s employer.

The typical Florida personal injury case requires the plaintiff to establish proof of four elements:  duty, breach, causation, and damages. In many cases, the defendant acknowledges that they breached a duty that was owed to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff suffered injuries, but they claim that their breach of the duty was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

To satisfy the causation element, a plaintiff must show that their injuries were the direct or natural consequence of the defendant’s actions. Importantly, a Florida personal injury plaintiff does not need to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the only cause of their injuries, only that it was a contributing factor. A plaintiff can even recover from a negligent defendant if the plaintiff shared responsibility for the accident resulting in their injuries.

Proving that the defendant’s actions were the legal cause of an injury can be tricky, depending on the circumstances. Generally, a plaintiff cannot rely on speculation and must present some evidence indicating that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. A recent decision issued by a state appellate court discusses the element of causation.

While filing any personal injury case can be complicated, Florida medical malpractice cases have an exceptionally complex set of procedural requirements. If a plaintiff fails to follow these exacting requirements, the court will likely dismiss their case, potentially leaving the plaintiff without any remedy for their injuries.

When discussing the requirements of a medical malpractice lawsuit, perhaps the best place to start is with the Florida medical malpractice pre-suit requirements. Before an injury victim can file a medical malpractice case, they must provide notice to each of the defendants named in the lawsuit. The plaintiff must attach an affidavit from a medical professional stating that the plaintiff has a valid medical malpractice claim.

Once the defendant receives the plaintiff’s pre-suit notice, there is a 90-day period in which the defendant must investigate the claim and determine whether they will contest the allegations or agree to settle the claim. During these 90 days, the statute of limitations is tolled. If the defendant denies liability, the plaintiff will have 60 days from that date, or until the end of the statute of limitations, to file a formal case against all defendants.

When someone is injured due to a dangerous product, manufactures, retailers, and any other person or company in the supply chain can generally be held liable through a Florida product liability lawsuit. There are several theories under which an injury victim can bring a product liability lawsuit, including defective design claims, manufacturing defect claims, and failure-to-warn claims.

Design defect claims arise when a product’s design itself is dangerous. Thus, no matter how carefully the product is manufactured, it cannot be made safe. These claims can be proven by showing that the product failed to satisfy consumer expectations of a safe product or by showing that the risks presented by the product outweigh its benefits.

As noted above, a Florida defective design claim can generally be brought against any actor in the supply chain. This includes manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, retailers, as well as any other party that helps make the product available to the public. In a recent case, a state appellate court was asked to determine if a manufacturer could be held liable for a plaintiff’s injuries when the plaintiff rented the vehicle from a rental agency.

One of the most important aspects of a Florida personal injury case is the credibility of the witnesses that a party plans to call at trial. Indeed, in many Florida car accident claims, the case comes down to a “he said, she said” situation where one witness’ testimony is directly contradicted by another’s. When this is the case, ultimately, the jury must determine which party’s witnesses were more credible.

Before a Florida personal injury case ever reaches trial, the defendant will likely file a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s case is insufficient as a matter of law. Essentially, when a defendant files a summary judgment motion, they are claiming that the important factual issues necessary to decide the case are not contested, and when the court applies the law to these facts, a defense verdict is warranted.

Importantly, summary judgment is appropriate only if the defendant can show there are no issues of material fact that must be resolved by the jury, and the defendant is entitled judgment as a matter of law. Thus, there are two ways to defeat a motion for summary judgment. First, the plaintiff can show that there is at least one issue of material fact that is not resolved by the evidence presented thus far. Second, the plaintiff can argue that when the law is applied to the uncontested facts, a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor is appropriate. So, while a witness’ credibility is of critical importance at trial, it is almost irrelevant in a motion for summary judgment. A recent state appellate decision illustrates this concept.

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