The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently published an opinion affirming a lower federal district court’s judgment in favor of the defendant in a negligence lawsuit filed by a plaintiff after she was injured in a fall. The plaintiff was a woman who was seriously injured after she slipped on rocks in a parking lot that was adjacent to and operated by the defendant, a national hardware store chain. Both the district court and the Seventh Circuit ruled that the woman presented insufficient evidence to support her negligence claim and that she was not entitled to plead her case for damages to a jury or judge at a trial. As a result of the appellate court ruling, the woman will not be compensated for her claim or the damages she suffered as a result of the fall.
The Plaintiff Is Injured After Slipping on Rocks Used and Sold by the Defendant
According to the appellate court’s discussion of the plaintiff’s initial complaint, the injuries resulting in the case of Piotrowski v. Menard, Inc. were caused when the plaintiff slipped on two or more rocks that were in the parking lot of the defendant’s store near the exit. The plaintiff claimed that the rocks on which she tripped were similar or identical to rocks that the defendant used in a decorative planter near the site of her fall. The rocks were also sold by the defendant inside the store as decorative river rock.
After she fell in the parking lot, she was transported by ambulance to a local hospital and treated for several broken bones and torn ligaments. Within one year of the fall, the plaintiff had been hospitalized four additional times and undergone three surgeries as a result of the injuries she suffered in the fall.
The Plaintiff’s Negligence Claim is Rejected by the District Court
Within two years of the incident, the plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant, seeking to hold them responsible for the injuries and loss that she suffered from the fall. The plaintiff sought damages from the defendant, alleging that the negligence of the store management and employees resulted in an unacceptably dangerous condition on their property that the store had a duty to prevent. In her initial complaint and the early district court proceedings, the plaintiff offered testimony that the rocks must have been sold or used by the defendant because they were similar or identical to the rocks that were sold in the store and used as decorations nearby. Without disputing the existence of the rocks or their likeness to the rocks sold and used by the store, the defendant successfully argued to the district court that the plaintiff’s claim was insufficient as a matter of law to proceed to a trial.
Applying the applicable law for negligence and premises liability claims, a panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court’s decision to reject the plaintiff’s case. The court noted that a slip-and-fall case requires a plaintiff to provide evidence that could be interpreted by a reasonable jury to fulfill the elements of a negligence claim: a duty owed by the defendant, the defendant’s breach of that duty, causation leading to the plaintiff’s injuries, and damages. Since the plaintiff alleged that she slipped on a foreign object on the defendant’s premises, she would be required to provide non-speculative evidence that the defendant either placed the foreign object where it caused her to fall or had either actual or constructive notice of the object. Since the plaintiff presented no evidence to suggest how the rocks ended up on the surface of the parking lot or how long they were present, the court found that she did not meet her burden and ruled in favor of the defendant.
Requirements for a Florida Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit
Florida law requires that an injured plaintiff prove that a business had actual or constructive notice of a hazardous condition or object that caused the plaintiff to slip and become injured. If an employee causes the dangerous condition, it must follow that they knew or should have known of its existence. When a third party is alleged to have caused some dangerous condition on premises operated by the defendant, a Florida accident victim must present evidence that an employee actually knew about the condition or that they should have known about the condition based on the amount of time or a pattern of behavior by the defendant’s employees. The law applied in the recent Piotrowski decision is very similar to Florida law, and slip-and-fall victims could lose what appears to be an open-and-shut negligence case if their legal representative does not provide the right kind of evidence for their claim.
The Importance of a Competent and Experienced Florida Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Florida slip-and-fall accident or by another act of negligence, beware of the tricks that insurance companies and large businesses may use to try to prevent you from recovering compensation in what looks and feels like an obvious case of liability. The South Florida premises liability attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank know what is needed to prove a slip-and-fall claim, and we will be sure to follow the requirements to have your case heard by a jury if the defendant does not cooperate with a fair settlement offer. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys to get started on your case. Call today at 877-448-8585 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Dismissal of Rollerblading Injury Case Affirmed by Appellate Court, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 1, 2016.
School Authorities Received Multiple Complaints About Bus Driver Prior to Tragic Fatal Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 6, 2016.