Last month, one state’s appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that required the court to determine if the lower court was proper in granting the defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the plaintiff presented evidence that gave rise to a factual issue regarding the defendant’s potential negligence, the case should have been presented to a jury, rather than being decided by the trial judge.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was a tenant in an apartment complex that was owned and operated by the defendant. One winter day, the plaintiff was planning on going to the hardware store with a family member. As he exited his apartment and approached his truck, he slipped on a patch of black ice, falling on his shoulder. The fall resulted in a torn rotator cuff that required surgery to repair.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant, claiming that the defendant was negligent in maintaining the common areas of the apartment complex. The plaintiff testified that prior to the day of his accident, the defendant had cleared snow from the complex parking lot to an area that was slightly above the level of the parking lot. He explained that the snow melted during the day, resulting in water running onto the parking lot surface that later re-froze as the temperature dropped overnight.
After the conclusion of the plaintiff’s evidence, the defendant asked the judge to enter judgment in its favor, arguing that the plaintiff failed to prove his case. Specifically, the defendant claimed that the plaintiff failed to show that the defendant had any knowledge of the hazard, and thus it could not be responsible for clearing it. The trial judge entered judgment in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.
The Plaintiff Is Successful on Appeal
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision. The court began by explaining that the jury is responsible for all factual determinations, and the judge is only able to resolve purely legal issues. Thus, if there is a conflict in the testimony of the witnesses, the case should be submitted to a jury.
Here, the court noted that the plaintiff’s own testimony created a factual issue regarding the defendant’s potential negligence. Specifically, the issue was whether it was negligent for the defendant to plow the snow from the parking lot to an elevated area where it could melt and then later re-freeze, potentially causing the parking lot to become icy. Since a factual issue was raised by the plaintiff, the trial judge should not have decided the case and should have presented the case to a jury.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. This may be the case if the landowner was a private individual, a business, or even a government entity. The skilled personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the South Florida personal injury law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have decades of experience representing accident victims in a wide range of premises liability cases, including those involving accidents in common areas of apartment buildings. We understand that recovering after an accident is a lengthy process, and we do all that we can to simplify the process for our clients. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated South Florida personal injury attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Limits Truck Owner’s Liability, Finding that He Loaned Truck to At-Fault Driver, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 6, 2017.
Who Is Responsible in Florida When Someone Causes an Accident Using a Borrowed or Stolen Car?, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 19, 2017.