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Florida law requires businesses to keep their premises safe for customers. This includes keeping floors dry so that customers do not suffer slip-and-fall accidents. Those who are injured after slipping on a wet floor must show that a business had actual or constructive knowledge of the floor’s dangerous condition and should have done something to fix it.

Sometimes, plaintiffs can offer direct evidence to show that a business knew about a wet floor. For example, a waiter could testify that he saw a spilled drink on a restaurant floor. In other cases, accident victims must rely on circumstantial evidence to prove constructive knowledge. Plaintiffs demonstrate constructive knowledge by showing that a dangerous condition like a wet floor existed long enough that a business should have known about it, or that the condition happened with regularity at the business.

This month, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a slip-and-fall case that relied on circumstantial evidence to prove constructive knowledge of a wet floor. The court concluded that the plaintiff failed to prove constructive knowledge because her case relied on a series of “stacked” inferences.

A Florida appellate court recently issued an opinion considering whether an insurance company acted in bad faith towards its policyholder when it failed to settle a claim. The claim arose when the insured slammed into another driver’s vehicle while driving drunk, pushing it in front of an oncoming train. The driver’s eight-year-old son was killed in the accident, and the driver suffered permanent injuries. After two years of criminal proceedings, the insured pleaded guilty, and the court sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

Following the accident, the insurance company tried to settle the claim with the victim and tender the entire policy limits to the woman and her son’s estate. The woman’s attorney stated that they were not ready to accept the payment and would await the culmination of the insured’s criminal proceeding. After the insured’s guilty plea, the woman’s new attorney advised the insurance company that they were ready to accept the settlement so long as it strictly complied with several provisions. Most relevant was that acceptance of the settlement would only release the insured and prohibited any indemnity provisions. The insurance company issued a check and stated that they satisfied all conditions. However, the woman’s attorney disagreed, and the insurance company responded that the attorney could strike any conditions they did not agree with. The attorney did not respond, and the woman filed a lawsuit against the driver in state court and won a judgment exceeding $10 million. The woman then filed a third-party bad faith lawsuit against the insurance company.

Under Florida law, insurance companies owe a good faith duty to their insureds in handling their claims. While the duty typically governs the relationship between the company and the insured, Florida law permits causes of action by the victim against the insurance company for its bad-faith failure to settle. The primary inquiry in these cases is whether the insurer diligently worked to settle the claim as if the victim were in the insured’s shoes. In this case, the victim argued that the company acted in bad faith by including overly broad release language. Although overbroad language can create a jury question, the court reasoned that it does not automatically amount to bad faith. Further, looking at the totality of the circumstances, it is clear that the insurance company attempted to settle the claim in a timely and fair manner. Ultimately, the court found that while the company’s action may have been negligent, it did not amount to bad faith.

The Second District Court of Appeals recently issued a decision regarding a settlement agreement in a Florida premises liability case. The plaintiff appealed a final order enforcing a settlement agreement in favor of the defendants–a Health Center. Following a lawsuit against the Health Center, the parties entered into a settlement agreement which allowed the Health Center to satisfy the final judgment if they “timely made” thirteen monthly payments. The agreement included a specific payment schedule and stated that if a monthly payment is late, the defendant had ten days to cure it from the date the plaintiff made written notice.

The first two monthly payments were three days and two days late; in both situations, the Health Center promised that the payments were forthcoming. As such, the plaintiff refrained from sending the ten-day cure notice. After the Health Center failed to make the payment, the plaintiff moved for a default judgment; however, the parties agreed to reinstate the settlement. This pattern continued for the next several months; however, the defendants did not argue the validity or effectiveness of the settlement agreement. The defendant sent the final payment with a notice stating that they were expecting a release from judgment. The plaintiff rejected the final payment, arguing that the defendants were in breach of the agreement based on the late payments. The defendant moved to enforce the agreement.

In Florida, courts reviewing settlement agreements look to the ordinary meaning of the contract’s language. In this case, the agreement stated that the plaintiff would only accept the agreed-upon sum if the defendant made timely payments. Further, the agreement stated that the plaintiff could declare a default judgment if the payment were not received during the ten-day cure period. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s acceptance of late payments rewrote the contract. The court explained that although subsequent conduct can modify terms in a contract, nothing in this situation indicated an intent to change the terms. Even though the plaintiff did not send a ten-day cure notice after the first two late payments, they did so at the third late payment. When the defendant did not respond, the plaintiff moved to declare a default judgment. Moreover, every receipt for subsequent payment stated that the payment was being accepted in “partial satisfaction of the Amended Final Judgment.” As such, the original settlement agreement terms remained effective.

After a Florida car accident, injury victims and their loved ones may face a daunting road ahead of them. These accidents can leave victims with significant injuries that may impact their livelihood and daily activities. In addition to complex substantive rules, Florida courts maintain a series of procedural rules that can make a recovery difficult. These challenges become more evident when the at-fault party dies during the accident or during proceedings. Cases in which the at-fault party dies require a comprehensive understanding of the intersection between Florida tort and probate laws. It is essential that injury victims contact an attorney to discuss how the death of a defendant may impact their claim.

A recent Florida car accident highlights a situation where a family may need to file a claim against a deceased defendant’s estate. A local news report described a fiery Florida head-on collision involving an Infiniti traveling the wrong way. The wrong-way driver slammed into a Chevy that was carrying a pregnant mother and her five children. The collision caused the Infiniti to burst into flames. Two people inside the Infiniti died upon impact; however, the pregnant mother and her children survived the accident.

In cases like this, Florida’s law clarifies that a cause of action does not die with the person. However, the cause of action may be inadvertently extinguished if the party seeking recovery does not comply with the state’s procedural rules. The statute governs situations where the party dies pending litigation and before litigation begins.

Losing a loved one is often one of the most painful and traumatic events in an individual’s life. When your loved ones are taken from you suddenly and without warning, however, it can often be even more heart-wrenching. When the loss of a loved one was fully preventable and was the result of another party’s negligence or recklessness, those who are responsible must be held accountable. In these tragic situations, grieving family members can pursue a Florida wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party for compensation.

According to a recent news report, a head-on collision killed two people and left two others injured. Florida Highway Patrol reported that two cars were traveling in opposite directions when a third car got between the other drivers. A Toyota, which was traveling east while a Honda was traveling west were interrupted by a Camaro when it tried to pass the Honda by entering the eastbound lane. To avoid the oncoming Camaro, the Toyota swerved right and landed in the grass shoulder before getting back into the eastbound lane, but it overcorrected and traveled into the westbound lane, where it crashed into the Honda. The driver of the Toyota was pronounced dead at the scene and her passenger was transported to the hospital with significant injuries. The driver of the Honda also suffered significant injuries and was in critical condition following the accident, and her passenger died at the scene.

In Florida, wrongful death claims are governed by the state’s “Right to Action” statute, which states that “when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person,” the estate, family members, or personal representative of the deceased individual can file a civil suit in court.

An appeals court recently issued an opinion stemming from a Florida car accident between an insured and an uninsured motorist. The insured purchased non-stacking uninsured motorist coverage from their insurance company. After suffering injuries in an accident with an uninsured motorist, the insured sought to receive benefits of a stacking coverage policy. The woman filed a lawsuit against the insurance company after the company refused to cover the woman under the more comprehensive policy.

The record indicates that the woman’s boyfriend purchased an insurance policy that provided bodily injury and uninsured motorist coverage up to $25,000 per person. During the renewal period, the boyfriend rejected the non-stacking coverage, and the Office of Insurance Regulation approved the form. The policy states that there is no coverage for an insured who sustains bodily injury while occupying a vehicle owned by the policyholder or any resident relative if it is not in the policyholder’s car—the policy applied to the woman and her boyfriend and their Ford pickup truck. The two suffered injuries while operating a motorcycle that the insurance company did not insure.

On appeal, the court reviewed the insurance policy by looking at its plain language. Generally, exclusion provisions are more strictly construed than coverage provisions and tend to be interpreted in favor of the policyholder. However, courts cannot rewrite contracts or add intentions or meaning that are not present. Ambiguities exist when a provision is open to more than one reasonable interpretation. A court cannot deem a contract ambiguous just because it is complex or requires an in-depth analysis.

An appeals court recently issued an opinion in a case that may have drastic consequences on Florida product liability lawsuits. The decision pertained to a case involving a plaintiff who filed a lawsuit against Amazon for injuries she suffered from a hoverboard she purchased on the website from a third-party seller. The court was tasked with determining whether Amazon could be held strictly liable for defective products on its site.

The massive online retailer argued that it was not liable for the victim’s injuries because Amazon merely operates as a service provider and not as the seller or supplier of the product. In support of its argument, Amazon argued that it did not possess any proactive authority over the item and could merely address safety issues after they had been reported.

Despite Amazon’s contentions, the court upheld previous decisions finding Amazon strictly liable for the defective product. The court reasoned that Amazon played a “pivotal” role in bringing the product to the consumer. Further, the court stated that Amazon would need to bear the consequences of its business model of placing itself in the vertical chain of distribution of the defective hoverboard.

Late last year, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion amending Rule 1.510, Florida’s summary judgment standard. Before making substantive changes, the Court allowed the public to submit comments. After receiving and reviewing the comments, the court issued an opinion amending Rule 1.510, effectively adopting the text of the federal standard. This change will undoubtedly have a significant impact on Florida’s injury lawsuits, as many cases are resolved during this stage of litigation.

The Florida Supreme Court noted that the public comments persuaded them that adopting the federal summary judgment rule would provide the courts with the most seamless and effective transition. The Court emphasized three leading changes in the amended rule.

First, there is an inherent similarity between the directed verdict and summary judgment standard. Under both standards, inquiries regarding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists hinges on the substantive evidence that the parties present. When the moving party does not hold the burden of persuasion, that party can obtain summary judgment without disproving the nonmoving party’s case. Instead, the movant can meet their burden by either producing evidence that a fact is not as it seems or by pointing out the other party’s failure to provide evidence to substantiate an issue.

A federal appellate court recently issued an opinion in a Florida premises liability case, requiring the court to interpret a Florida statute. According to the record, the federal government operates an Air Force base, including a public beach with a public shower. A civil employee at the base and his wife filed a lawsuit for injuries the man suffered while using the shower. He alleged that the government allowed an algae film to grow on the shower surface and failed to warn the public of the danger. In response to the lawsuit, the government argued that the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and the state’s recreational-use statute, Fla. Stat § 375.251, provided immunity from the lawsuit. The plaintiffs argued that he was a business-visitor invitee because he worked at the Air Force base, and the statute did not apply. The lower court granted the government’s motion to dismiss, and the plaintiffs’ appealed.

The FTCA allows the government to be sued if a private person would be liable to the claimant under the law. Further, the state’s recreational use statute protects public outdoor recreation areas against ordinary premises liability. Under the statute, these qualifying owners do not owe a duty of care to keep their area safe for entry or use or to warn persons entering the area. In this case, the government argued that the statute bars the claim because the government is an “owner,” which provides the public access to the beach, an outdoor recreational area. Further, they argued that the plaintiffs were “persons” within the meaning of the state.

In an attempt to overcome the bar, the plaintiffs cited the statute’s subsection, precisely the term “others.” The plaintiffs suggested that the term referred to those invited onto the land for reasons other than business. They assert that there is a distinction between public invitees and business-visitor invitees. In reviewing the plain meaning of the term “others,” the court found that the term clearly and unambiguously refers to “persons.” The court found that even if the plaintiffs were business visitors invitees, which is unclear, the statute does not exempt that category of visitors. The court ultimately affirmed the lower court’s ruling, finding that the government did not waive its sovereign immunity.

A Florida federal court recently addressed a product liability claim against a medical device company and its parent company. The case arose when the plaintiff underwent surgery for her pelvic organ prolapse. Her physician implanted a polypropylene mesh designed by the defendants. After surgery, the woman experienced significant health issues that she attributed to the mesh device. Following the removal surgery, the woman and her husband filed a product liability claim against the defendants based on a failure to warn.

In response, the defendants moved for summary judgment based on the state’s learned intermediary doctrine. The doctrine imposes a duty on medical device manufacturers to warn of the product’s dangers to physicians instead of patients. In this case, the plaintiffs argue that the doctrine does not apply because the physician maintained a long-standing financial relationship with the defendants. Therefore, it was unreasonable for the defendants to expect the physician to warn patients of the device’s dangers. The plaintiffs asked the courts to create a “financial bias” exception to the state’s learned intermediary doctrine. The lower court declined to create such an exception and found in favor of the defendants. The plaintiffs appealed based on the failure-to-warn claim.

Under Florida law, plaintiffs pursuing a failure-to-warn claim must establish that the product’s warning was 1.) inadequate, 2.) the inadequacy approximately caused the victim’s injuries, and 3.) the victim suffered an injury from using the product. In cases involving a medical device, the physician acts as the “learned intermediary,” and it is their responsibility to weigh the device’s potential risks and benefits to their patients. For a plaintiff to succeed on a claim against the device manufacturer, they must prove that the doctor would not have used the product if the manufacturer included an adequate warning. Moreover, the chain may still be broken if the manufacturer provides an insufficient warning, so long as the doctor is aware and still recommends the device.

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