Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case brought by the parents of a student who died while horseplaying with another student at school. At the time of the accident, the teacher in charge of the classroom had stepped out and asked another teacher in a nearby room to keep an eye on the children. The court was tasked with determining whether the teacher was entitled to official immunity.

ClassroomThe case raises interesting and important issues that often arise in Florida personal injury cases involving government defendants. These include Florida car accidents involving government employees and slip-and-fall accidents that occur on government property.

Official Immunity

Under both the Florida and United States Constitutions, government agencies and officials are entitled to immunity unless immunity is specifically waived by the government. Each state has its own tort claims act in which lawmakers determine which types of cases are exempt from the general grant of immunity.

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Florida has hundreds of thousands of acres of beautiful outdoor areas that are perfect for a number of recreational activities, including hiking, boating, hunting, and biking. However, much of this land is owned by various government entities or by private citizens. In the interest of persuading landowners to open up their land for the general recreational use of the public, Florida lawmakers passed Florida Statute 375.251, the Florida recreational use statute.

Stadium SeatsThe recreational use statute encourages landowners to allow members of the public to use their land by preventing anyone who is injured while using a landowner’s property from holding the landowner responsible for any injuries sustained. Importantly, the immunity conferred by the recreational use statute is not absolute, and immunity will not attach if the landowner charges a fee to use or access the land, or if the landowner engages in “deliberate, willful, or malicious” conduct.

A recent case illustrates how one court strictly interpreted a similar recreational use statute, rejecting the plaintiffs’ claim against a stadium where their daughter was seriously injured.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case requiring the court to determine if the defendant hotel had a duty to provide the plaintiff with reasonable assistance. Ultimately, the court concluded that there were issues of fact that needed to be resolved by a jury, and it ordered the case to proceed toward trial.

Hotel RoomThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff checked into the defendant hotel. Prior to checking in, the plaintiff let her husband know where she would be and told him that she would let him know when she arrived. However, the plaintiff never called her husband. Concerned about his wife, the plaintiff’s husband called the hotel to see if his wife had checked in.

The hotel confirmed that the plaintiff did check in, and the front-desk employee asked a maintenance worker to go to the plaintiff’s room to perform a welfare check. The maintenance worker had been employed with the hotel for several years but had never performed a welfare check before.

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Over the past decade, e-cigarette use has skyrocketed, with it being the most commonly consumed tobacco product among U.S. youth. The move toward e-cigarette use was due in large part to the fact that e-cigarettes were believed to be a safe alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. Indeed, according to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General, a significant portion of e-cigarette users classify themselves as “former smokers” who picked up the habit again once e-cigarettes became prevalent.

E-CigaretteAccording to a recent study, however, e-cigarettes may pose a significant risk to users’ health. The study was conducted by a group of researchers at the New York University School of Medicine. The researchers exposed lab mice to a vapor that contained nicotine, similar in both content and amount to the vapor that is released by e-cigarettes.

At the conclusion of the study, researchers discovered that the DNA contained in the lungs, hearts, and bladders of the exposed lab mice suffered DNA damage. What’s more, the normal DNA repair processes were hindered. After conducting further analysis on human lung and bladder cells, the researchers confirmed that the vapor had the same halting effect on the DNA repair processes.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a case alleging that the state department of transportation was negligent in allowing an orange construction barrel to obstruct a lane of traffic. The case discusses an issue that will be relevant to many Florida accident victims, specifically, when a government entity can be held liable for the dangerous condition of a public roadway.

Construction ConeState and local governments are responsible to build and maintain public roads. While governments can rarely be held liable based on the dangerous design of a road or intersection, government entities can be held liable when they fail to safely maintain public roads. A recent case illustrates the standard courts apply when reviewing these claims.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was towing a trailer on the highway when she entered a construction zone, where orange construction barrels were placed alongside the single lane of travel that remained open. As the plaintiff continued down the highway, one of the barrels was directly in the lane of travel, and she was unable to avoid clipping the barrel with the awning of her trailer. As a result, the plaintiff’s trailer was damaged, and she could not use it for the remainder of the season.

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Florida is known for its fantastic golf courses. Unfortunately, Florida is also known for its bad drivers. When Florida drivers get behind the wheel of a golf cart, accidents are bound to happen. This is especially the case when a golfer has a few drinks while on the links.

Golf CartFlorida golf cart accidents are more common than most believe. This is due in part to the fact that serious injuries are rare in golf cart accidents. However, golf cart accidents are very real, and a significant number of Floridians are injured in golf cart accidents each year.

A recent case brought by an injured pedestrian who was struck by a golf cart illustrates the difficulties accident victims may encounter when filing a claim after a golf cart accident.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a case that was filed by the surviving family members of a ship worker who died after he fell 50 feet when he stepped through a hole in the ship’s grating. The case presents a relevant issue to Florida boat accident plaintiffs insofar as it discusses how maritime law applies to cases against the owners and operators of large commercial vessels.

Oil RigThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of a man who worked as an independent contractor for a recycling company that purchases steel structures, disassembles them, and sells the metal for scrap. The company that employed the plaintiffs’ loved one purchased a decommissioned oil rig from another company that was in charge of decommissioning the rig.

Prior to the sale, an employee for the selling company told the company buying the rig about a potential danger on the ship regarding the presence of oil in the ship’s pipes. However, no one warned the buying company that there were several holes cut in the metal grating on the rig’s deck.

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Late last month, an appellate court in Indiana issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a bicyclist who was injured while riding on a government-owned trail. The case required the court to determine if the state government was entitled to immunity under the state’s recreational use statute. Finding that the state was entitled to immunity, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Bike Trail

Although this case took place in Indiana, it is relevant to Florida bike injury victims because it illustrates the difficulties that an accident victim may face when bringing a personal injury case against a government entity or employee.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding his bike on a mixed-use trail that was owned and operated by the state park department. As the plaintiff was passing a pedestrian, the tire of the plaintiff’s bike got caught in a moderately sized crack in the pavement. This caused the plaintiff to lose control of the bike and fall to the ground. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries to his shoulder as a result of the fall and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the state government.

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In the initial aftermath of a Florida car accident, everyone’s adrenaline is pumping, and people are not often thinking about the consequences of what they say. Over time, memories tend to fade, and biases may creep into a witness’ thought process. Thus, there is an argument to be made that statements made in the immediate aftermath of an accident are the most reliable. In fact, it is not uncommon for a witness’ testimony at trial to differ from the statement they provided to police in the moments after an accident.

CrosswalkNormally, hearsay evidence is prohibited during a trial. Hearsay evidence is an out-of-court statement that is being offered to prove what the statement says. For example, a witness’ statement to police describing how an accident occurred is generally considered inadmissible hearsay. The proper way to get this testimony in would be to call the witness to testify at trial. But what happens when a witness’ testimony changes from the time of the accident to trial?

The Florida Rules of Evidence address this very issue in Rule 90.614. Under Rule 90.614, a party is entitled to cross-examine a witness regarding any prior inconsistent statements they made. Rule 90.614 acts as an exception to the general prohibition on hearsay. Thus, if a witness takes the stand and testifies to something different from what they told police in an accident report, that witness can be questioned about the inconsistency. A recent car accident case illustrates this concept.

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Florida landlords are required to take certain precautions when it comes to the safety of the homes they lease to tenants. When a landlord fails to make necessary repairs to a residence or fails to warn a tenant about a known hazard on the property, the landlord may be held financially liable for the tenant’s injuries through a Florida premises liability lawsuit.

StepsEarlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving injuries sustained by a tenant as she was entering the residence that she had leased from the defendant landlord. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the lower court was correct in dismissing both of the plaintiff’s claims. Ultimately, the court concluded that there was conflicting evidence as to whether the landlord conducted necessary repairs, so the plaintiff’s failure-to-repair claim should not have been dismissed.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff rented a home from the defendant. After about 18 months of living in the home, the plaintiff tripped and fell when the heel of her shoe got caught in a crack between the front patio and the top step leading up to the patio.

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