A state appellate court recently released an opinion in a case discussing the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor as it relates to personal injury matters. Res ipsa loquitor is a Latin phrase that roughly translates to “the thing speaks for itself.” The doctrine may apply in some Florida personal injury cases where the exact cause of a plaintiff’s injury is unknown, but the nature of the accident is such that it would not likely have occurred absent the defendant’s negligence.

The Res Ipsa Loquitor Doctrine

Res ipsa loquitor is an old common-law doctrine that allows for the judge or jury to infer a defendant’s negligence from the surrounding circumstances. For the doctrine to apply, Florida courts require the plaintiff to establish three elements. First, the plaintiff must show that the instrumentality that caused the plaintiff’s injuries was in the sole control of the defendant. Second, that the accident resulting in the plaintiff’s injuries would likely not have happened absent the defendant’s negligence. And finally, that no direct proof of negligence is available.

The Case’s Facts

This case involved a woman who was injured as she was exiting an elevator in the defendant condominium complex. According to the court’s opinion, the woman was exiting the elevator when the doors to the elevator suddenly closed on her. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the condo complex, asserting claims under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether the defendant grocery store had a duty to provide staged shopping carts for the use of customers. Ultimately, the court concluded that the store did not have such a duty and did not voluntarily assume a duty by implementing standard operating procedures directing employees to stage carts when they had spare time.

The case presents an important issue that frequently arises in Florida slip-and-fall cases. Specifically, it involves the existence and extent of a duty that a business owes to its customers.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant grocery store maintains a corral of shopping carts near the store’s entrance. The store employs a greeter whose job it is to stand by the entrance and greet customers. While the greeter’s primary responsibility is to greet customers, the store’s standard operating procedures call for idle greeters to stage shopping carts by dislodging them from one another and loosely nesting them, making it easier for customers to obtain carts.

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In a recent personal injury case, a state appellate court issued a written opinion discussing whether a police department could be held liable under the state’s tort claims act for injuries caused while the officer was responding to an emergency call. The case presents an important issue for Florida car accident victims who have been injured due to the negligence of a police officer or other government employee.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident when a police officer made a left-hand turn against a red light while responding to an emergency call. There was some evidence suggesting that the police car’s emergency lights were activated at the time the vehicle entered the intersection but that siren was not engaged. A subsequent investigation revealed that the plaintiff was not speeding at the time of the accident, and given the nature of the intersection the plaintiff would not have been able to see the officer’s vehicle approaching.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city that employed the officer, claiming that the officer was negligent and that the city was vicariously responsible for the officer’s negligent actions. The city responded that the officer was exercising discretion in responding to the emergency call, and that the discretionary acts of a government employee are entitled to immunity.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case that raised an interesting issue that arises in many Florida slip-and-fall cases. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the extent of the duty that was owed to the plaintiff by the defendant, who operated a vacation rental house that was rented out on a weekly basis. This is an important determination because Florida premises liability cases often turn on the extent of the duty the defendant owes to the plaintiff.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a slip-and-fall accident in a vacation rental home that was owned by the defendants. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the defendants rented the fully furnished house out for approximately six months, using the house themselves for the remaining portion of the year.

During the six months when the house was being rented out, the defendants used a property management company to handle the day-to-day affairs. The property management company advertised the home for rent, provided cleaning and linen services in between occupancies, and dealt with the check-in and check-out process.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a plaintiff could pursue a respondeat superior claim as well as a negligent entrustment claim against an employer based on an employee’s negligent conduct. The case is important to Florida car accident victims because it elucidates the differences between two common claims that are often believed to be identical but are, in fact, different.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was riding a motorcycle when he was struck by a truck that made an improper left turn in front of the plaintiff. The plaintiff died as a result of the collision. The truck driver was later found to have been under the influence of a prescription narcotic that was banned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

The plaintiff filed a multi-claim wrongful death case against the truck driver’s employer. The plaintiff claimed that the employer was liable for the truck driver’s negligence under the theory of vicarious liability. In addition, the plaintiff contended that the employer was liable under the doctrine of negligent entrustment.

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In Florida, when a dog attacks someone who is on public property or if they are bitten while on private property (with the owner’s permission), they can pursue a claim for compensation from the animal’s owner for any injuries they sustained. The state’s dog bite statute governs these Florida dog bite cases.

Under Florida Statutes section 767.04, an owner is strictly liable for any injuries caused by their animal. This means that the dog bite victim will not need to establish that the owner was negligent in any way to recover. The mere fact that a dog bit someone is sufficient to establish liability. Thus, Florida law is somewhat unique in that an owner is liable “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”

This is an important distinction between Florida’s dog bite statute and similar statutes in other states. For example, many states employ the “one bite rule,” which essentially provides the owner of a dog with immunity from liability the first time their dog attacks or bites someone else. The rationale behind this rule is that the owner of an animal cannot be held liable for injuries caused by a dog that they had no way of knowing would attack a human and has never done so in the past.

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When a plaintiff files a Florida personal injury case, in many instances the defendant will file a motion for summary judgment claiming that the plaintiff’s case is insufficient as a matter of law. Essentially, in a summary judgment motion, the defendant argues that there are no disputed factual issues in the case and that when the court applies the law, the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Thus, to survive a defense motion for summary judgment, a Florida personal injury plaintiff must be able to establish a disputed issue of fact. In a recent personal injury case, the court discussed the plaintiff’s burden to present evidence creating an issue of fact, as opposed to merely calling into question the credibility of a witness’ testimony.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident. The motorist who struck the plaintiff’s car (“the supervisor”) was on the phone at the time of the accident, speaking to a woman whom she supervises at work (“the employee”). The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the supervisor’s employer, arguing that the employer was vicariously liable for the negligent acts of the supervisor.

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In a recent appellate decision, the Florida Supreme Court held that construction loaders are considered dangerous instrumentalities as a matter of law. As a result of the court’s opinion, Florida personal injury victims who have been injured by these dangerous machines can pursue a claim for compensation against the owners of construction loaders regardless of whether the owner was negligent.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was seriously injured when he was working as an independent contractor for a hauling company. The hauling company had hired the plaintiff to help several employees clear a vacant lot that was full of vegetation and debris.

Evidently, the hauling company leased a large construction loader to help its employees and the plaintiff clear the lot. Apparently, while the lot was being cleared, an employee of the hauling company dropped a stump onto the plaintiff’s hand, requiring the plaintiff’s finger be amputated.

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Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a fatal drunk driving accident that occurred during the South-By-Southwest Music Festival (SXSW). The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s lawsuit against the event planners should proceed toward trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case against the event planners should be dismissed because the defendants did not control the area where the accident occurred.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the SXSW festival is a city-wide event with various venues across the city participating in festival activities. Thus, the event planners routinely applied for special use permits from the city to close certain city blocks. Specifically, the use permit that was obtained by the event planners stated that all “traffic controls must be provided in accordance with the approved traffic control plan.

One early morning during the festival, police attempted to pull over a motorist for a minor traffic infraction. However, the driver fled police and drove through a series of barriers and directly into a crowd of people. The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a man who was killed by the drunk driver.

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Recently, the Supreme Court of Florida issued a written opinion in a case rejecting a lower court’s decision to impose what appeared to be a bright-line rule regarding the available amount of damages a Florida wrongful death plaintiff is able to obtain. In so doing, the state’s high court held that the lower court failed to give the proper deference to the jury’s verdict as well as the trial court’s decision not to grant the defendant’s post-verdict motion to reduce the amount of damages awarded by the jury.

The Case

The case was brought by a woman whose mother died from lung cancer and was filed against a cigarette manufacturer. The jury determined that the plaintiff’s mother was addicted to cigarettes and that this addiction was the legal cause of her death. The jury heard evidence that the plaintiff was very close with her mother, and returned an award in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $4.5 million.

In a post-trial motion, the defendant claimed that the damages awarded by the jury were excessive, and requested that the trial judge either reduce the damages to a reasonable amount or grant a new trial. The court denied the defendant’s motion after considering the evidence in this case and looking at jury verdicts in similar cases, noting that “nothing in the record … suggest[s] that the verdict was the product of passion and prejudice.” The defendant appealed.

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