Appeals Court Overturns Comparative Negligence Ruling in Florida Premises Liability Case Where Plaintiff Was Wearing High Heels

In Bongiorno v. Americorp, Inc., a Florida woman filed a premises liability claim against a property owner over the injuries she allegedly sustained when she fell on a slippery bathroom floor in the office building where she was employed. In response to the lawsuit, the property owner denied liability for the woman’s harm and asserted the defense of comparative negligence. Following a bench trial, a judge ruled in favor of the woman but found both parties equally negligent for her injuries. According to the judge, the woman was 50 percent responsible for her slip-and-fall harm because she wore four-inch high heels to work. As a result, the hurt woman’s damages award was significantly reduced.

On appeal to the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fifth District, the woman argued the lower court judge committed error when he found her negligent for wearing high heels to work because there was no evidence offered to support such a conclusion. The building owner countered that women often fall as a result of wearing four-inch high heels, and the plaintiff assumed the risk when she chose to do so. In addition, the property owner claimed the fact that the woman told her doctor she was wearing such shoes at the time of her injury indicated an individual who was wearing so-called “safer footwear” could avoid falling on the supposedly slippery floor.

The Fifth District stated comparative negligence is an affirmative defense that requires a defendant to prove the plaintiff was responsible for an accident. Next, the court said four elements must be demonstrated in order to establish negligence. First, one party must owe the other a particular duty of care. Second, that duty must be breached. In addition, the breach must be the proximate cause of the other party’s harm. Finally, actual damages must be incurred.

After examining the facts of the case, the Florida Court of Appeal found that the injured woman did not have a duty to refrain from wearing high-heeled shoes to work, nor did the property owner show that she created a “foreseeable zone of risk” by doing so. As a result, the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fifth District reversed the lower court’s order finding the injured woman comparatively negligent for her injuries and remanded the case with instructions to enter judgment in the woman’s favor without a reduction in damages.

If you suffered harm due to a South Florida property owner’s negligent act, you need a skillful premises liability lawyer on your side to help you protect your rights. To discuss your case with an experienced Miami personal injury attorney today, call the seasoned advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Bongiorno v. Americorp, Inc., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 5th Dist. 2015

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Northern District of Florida Dismisses Defective Design Case Over Lack of Supporting Evidence, April 29, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Florida Court Holds Workers’ Compensation Case May be Time-Barred, April 23, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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