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Everyone who gets on a cruise is hoping for a relaxing, fun-filled, and sunny vacation. However, accidents can happen during these trips, and cruise ships have a responsibility to keep their patrons safe during their stay. Incidents that occur as a result of the negligence of the ship or cruise company should never ruin a holiday, and those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.

In a recent federal appellate case, a three-year-old child was on a cruise with her family. While on an upper deck, the child climbed onto and fell from a guard rail onto the deck below, suffering serious head injuries. Although there were conflicting reports of how the accident occurred, the toddler allegedly placed her hands on the second course of the rail to sit on the lower course but lost her grip and slid through the gap. The child’s mother sued the cruise line on behalf of her daughter, arguing that the cruise line was negligent in the creation and maintenance of the guard rail and failed to warn of the danger posed. The district court ruled in favor of the cruise line, holding that there was no dispute of material fact, and that the ship did not owe a duty to the plaintiff. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the circuit court reversed the lower court’s decision and sided with the plaintiff. The plaintiff argued that the guard rail posed a risk of injury to children, specifically because children were small enough to pass through the rails and fall to a lower deck. The appellate court agreed and stated that the cruise line owed a duty to protect the child from this specific type of injury. Additionally, based on expert testimony and other evidence, the court held that it was clear the ship had notice of the potential danger of the guard rail and had failed to act to cure the safety concern. Because the court found there was a genuine dispute of material fact present, the court remanded the case for further consideration.

For some, flying is stressful. For others, it’s the beginning of an adventure. But everyone knows that when you get on a plane, there’s a certain amount of risk in traveling. However, no one expects to board a flight and leave with a physical injury. When an airline is responsible for injuring a Florida passenger, the airline may be accountable.

When an airline passenger suffers a physical injury while embarking or disembarking on a plane, the only available recourse is to sue the airline for recovery under the Montreal Convention, which trumps any state law claims the passenger could bring. The Convention requires that the passenger bring suit within two years of the date of arrival at the destination.

In a recent appellate case, a plaintiff was on a flight to London when he was accused of stealing a crew member’s bag. Although the bag was found later, the airline refused to let the plaintiff disembark the flight. The plaintiff was an older gentleman who recently had surgery on his leg and had not yet fully recovered. When the airline turned the man over to the authorities, he was marched around the airport to multiple locations while being forced to carry his luggage with no help. Despite showing obvious signs of exhaustion, pain, and distress, the plaintiff was never given an opportunity to sit down. After denying the accusations against him to a police officer, the officer told him he was free to go.

Every year thousands of individuals in Florida suffer serious injuries or death because of a defective product, food, or device. In some cases, manufacturers catch faulty products before they cause serious injuries; however, in the vast majority of cases, defective products are recalled after a significant amount of damage has occurred. Florida product recalls usually happen after a manufacturer or a government agency discovers that the product is inherently or unreasonably dangerous to consumers. Although some manufacturers voluntarily recall their products, some prolong the recall for as long as possible. However, manufacturers who issue recalls are not automatically held liable for the injuries that their product causes. Floridians who suffer injuries because of a defective product should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies in these cases.

Typically, Florida product liability lawsuits are complex and require a thorough and comprehensive understanding of evidentiary and procedural rules. However, at their most basic level, these cases require a plaintiff to establish that the product was defectively designed, manufactured, or lacked appropriate warnings. Then a plaintiff must prove that they used the product as intended, but that the product was the proximate cause of their injuries. Finally, the plaintiff must show that they suffered an actual, compensable loss because of the defective product.

These cases often stem from defective medical devices, car parts, infant products, children’s toys, boats, pool equipment, and recreational vehicles. For example, recently, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of a recreational off-highway vehicle (ROV). The recall involves certain Honda Pioneer side-by-side vehicles. According to the recall notice, the ROV poses crash and injury hazards because it can move or roll when it is parked. Currently, the company has not received notification that anyone has suffered injuries; however, they received notice that the ROV began moving while parked. They advised consumers to immediately stop using the product and contact an authorized dealer for their next steps.

The First District Court of Appeal in the State of Florida recently reviewed a trial court’s order denying a manufacturer a directed verdict in a Florida wrongful death claim. According to the court’s opinion, the company manufactured products containing a synthetic marijuana product, commonly known as “spice.” A warning was contained in  the product that indicated it was unsafe for consumption by humans. A man purchased the product voluntarily consumed it, subsequently became impaired, and then drove his car into another vehicle. The man was sentenced to prison for his criminal conduct. The decedent’s representatives filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer, arguing that the company was liable for their family member’s death.

At trial, the company filed a directed verdict motion and argued that they were not proximately liable for the death because the man’s intoxication was the sole cause of the decedent’s death. The trial court denied the motion, and the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs, attributing 65% of the fault to the company and 35% fault to the intoxicated driver. The company appealed the ruling arguing, again, that the impaired man’s criminal conduct was the sole proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Proximate cause is a legal theory that imputes liability on a party when their actions set forth a sequence of events that led to an injury. Under Florida law, questions regarding proximate cause are left to the fact-finder; however, in some situations, a judge may address the issue where evidence suggests there is no more than one inference. Moreover, the Florida Supreme Court has found that when an actor’s behavior creates a dangerous situation, the law does not permit a jury to find a proximate cause where an unforeseeable, intervening act is responsible for the injuries. In some cases, plaintiffs may argue that third parties that create a dangerous situation could reasonably foresee that their negligence could set a chain of events in a motion that may result in injuries. However, Florida does not allow a jury to consider proximate cause in cases where the person responsible for the injuries is voluntarily impaired or purposely misuses a product.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a consolidated case against a hospital and behavioral health company. The defendants petitioned the court to review a trial court’s orders denying their motions to dismiss a plaintiff’s claim against them. The defendants argued that the court should dismiss the claims because the plaintiff did not comply with Florida’s medical malpractice presuit requirements.

According to the court’s opinion, the case arose after a personal representative of the deceased filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant. The family claimed that the plaintiff was transferred from a hospital to a residential treatment facility (RTF) operated by the behavioral health company. During her hospital stay, the woman received several medications; however, at transfer, the hospital provided the RTF with prescriptions but not the actual medications. The RTF did not administer the medicines, and the plaintiff died as a result of medical withdrawal.

The plaintiff’s lawsuit claimed that both entities were negligent because they knew or should have known that the failure to administer medication would likely result in life-threatening injuries. The defendants argued that the case was not sound in ordinary negligence, but rather medical malpractice. As such, because the plaintiff’s claim did not comply with Florida’s requirements, the trial judge should dismiss the complaint. The trial judge denied the motions; however, they noted that the case was a “close call.”

Recently, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida (USF), appealed a final judgment in favor of a plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff underwent abdominal surgery at Tampa General Hospital. USF employed the surgeon that performed the plaintiff’s surgery. Post-surgery, the woman’s condition quickly deteriorated, and she was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU). The plaintiff alleged that during this time, her surgeon and a critical care team oversaw her care. After some time, the critical care team determined that her condition was likely an infection. The critical care team administered antibiotics, and the woman underwent a second surgery. The surgeon who performed the surgery discovered that there was a perforation in the woman’s bowel. The woman suffered severe life-altering injuries, which required several surgeries and long-term hospitalization and rehab.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim against her original surgeon, the hospital, and USF. The critical care team settled with the woman before trial. At trial against USF and the hospital, the plaintiff claimed that the surgeon perforated her bowel, and her injuries were the result of the failure of everyone involved in her treatment. The woman presented an expert who testified that she would not have suffered long-term injuries if the woman received timely antibiotic treatment.

USF countered that their surgeon was not negligent, and even if he was, the woman’s injuries were not the result of his negligence. Instead, they claimed that the plaintiff’s injuries were the result of the critical care team’s failure to administer antibiotics at the appropriate time. Further, the surgeon denied perforating the woman’s bowel and argued that the injury occurred after surgery. Moreover, both parties’ experts opined that even if the bowel injury occurred during an operation, that was not a departure from a standard of care. At the close of the evidence, the trial court dismissed the hospital from the case. USF argued that if the jury found them liable, the jury should consider apportioning liability to the critical care team.

Recently, a plaintiff appealed a court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Dollar General in a Florida slip and fall case. The plaintiff’s complaint alleged the defendant was liable for injuries that he suffered after falling on a patch of laundry detergent in the store. The plaintiff appealed after the trial court’s judgment in favor of the defendant, arguing that the defendant failed to maintain the premises in a safe condition. Further, the plaintiff argued that genuine issues of material fact remained as to whether the defendant was negligent in its failure to warn of the danger.

According to the opinion, a customer dropped a detergent bottle near the checkout counter at the store. A manager and employee were working behind the counter when the spill occurred. In response, the manager left the employee to continue checking out customers, while he went to get supplies to clean up the spill. Neither party notified any other employee of the spill. Less than a minute after the spill, the plaintiff entered the store and slipped on the detergent. About thirty seconds later, the manager returned with materials to clean up the spill.

In Florida, slip and fall plaintiffs must establish that the defendant owed them duty and that their breach resulted in the plaintiff’s damages. Defendants who move for summary judgment must prove that they did not owe a duty or that they did not breach a duty. Florida business owners owe their customers the duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. They must warn the customer of concealed dangers that the business knows or should have known about, which the customer could not have discovered.

A Florida appellate court recently issued an opinion in a consolidated petition addressing whether a claim stemming from an emergency room physician’s failure to transfer a patient for financial gain is sound in medical malpractice. According to the record, the decedent visited an emergency room for treatment for several medical conditions. While she was there, the emergency room physicians determined that she needed to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). However, the hospital’s ICU was at capacity, so instead of transferring the woman, they left her in the hallway for several hours, where she eventually died.

The family filed a lawsuit against the hospital, alleging that the only reason they admitted the decedent was to generate hospital revenue. Further, they contended that this decision led to her treatment by the physician who caused her death. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit before engaging in the pre-suit investigation process, required by Florida law.

Under Florida law, medical malpractice plaintiffs must abide by specific filing deadlines and procedural requirements. Florida statute of limitations imposes a deadline by which a plaintiff must file a lawsuit against a negligent health care provider. Typically, plaintiffs must file their lawsuits within two years of discovering the injury or when they should have reasonably discovered the injury. Still, the lawsuit cannot be filed more than four years from when the negligent conduct occurred. There are some exceptions when the health care provider engages in fraud to conceal their malpractice. Additionally, there are certain exceptions for minors or those who lack capacity.

In a recent ruling, a Florida court upheld a verdict in favor of a man who was injured when he slipped and fell in his shower. The plaintiff’s claim was based on the landlord’s failure to properly fix the shower drain. Evidently, the defendant landlord had been notified about the issue on multiple occasions, but maintenance workers were unable to fix the problem. One day, the plaintiff slipped in the shower and landed on a ceramic soap tray. His injury required 30 stitches, and continuous therapy. The man later sued his landlord claiming that his injury was the result of the landlord’s negligence.

Florida law states that residential landlords have a general duty to repair dangerous, defective conditions when the landlord becomes aware of their existence. If the landlord fails to correct a known hazard, they may be held liable for injuries that occur as a result of the dangerous or defective condition. In this appeal, the defendant landlord asked the court to reverse the trial court’s decision in favor of the plaintiff. However, the court refused to disturb the trial court’s decision because it found enough evidence to support the verdict.

The key issue here was proximate cause. Proximate cause is the legal concept used to determine whether a harm caused to the plaintiff was the reasonably foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions. In order to find that a defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of an injury, the judge or jury must conclude that the injury was a natural and ordinary consequence of the defendant’s negligence. Therefore, a plaintiff must present facts that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that their injury was the foreseeable result of the defendant’s wrongful actions in order to successfully recover on a negligence claim.

Late last month, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a consolidated medical malpractice case against a behavioral health agency and hospital. The case involved the question of whether the plaintiff’s claim was based in medical malpractice. If so, the plaintiffs did not comply with the procedural requirements, so the case would be dismissed. However, if the court determined that the claim was one of ordinary negligence, the additional requirements of a Florida medical malpractice case would not apply.

According to the court’s opinion, a woman was transferred from a hospital to a residential treatment facility (RTF), operated by a behavioral health agency. The plaintiffs allege that, before the transfer, the hospital was providing the woman with seven medications. Upon transfer, the hospital provided the facility with prescriptions for the medicines, but failed to provide the medication. The RTF did not provide the woman with her medications, resulting in her death from “severe withdrawal syndrome.” The plaintiff, the estate of the deceased woman, alleged that the agencies were negligent because they knew or should have known that sudden withdrawal from these medications would likely cause a life-threatening danger to the woman.

In response, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint because the plaintiff failed to comply with Florida’s medical malpractice pre-suit requirements. The plaintiffs argued that their claims arose from ordinary negligence and not medical malpractice, and therefore they did not need to abide by the medical malpractice notice requirements. The trial judge agreed, and dismissed the defendants’ argument, leading them to petition the court for certiorari review.

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