Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case brought by the parents of a student who died while horseplaying with another student at school. At the time of the accident, the teacher in charge of the classroom had stepped out and asked another teacher in a nearby room to keep an eye on the children. The court was tasked with determining whether the teacher was entitled to official immunity.

ClassroomThe case raises interesting and important issues that often arise in Florida personal injury cases involving government defendants. These include Florida car accidents involving government employees and slip-and-fall accidents that occur on government property.

Official Immunity

Under both the Florida and United States Constitutions, government agencies and officials are entitled to immunity unless immunity is specifically waived by the government. Each state has its own tort claims act in which lawmakers determine which types of cases are exempt from the general grant of immunity.

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Florida has hundreds of thousands of acres of beautiful outdoor areas that are perfect for a number of recreational activities, including hiking, boating, hunting, and biking. However, much of this land is owned by various government entities or by private citizens. In the interest of persuading landowners to open up their land for the general recreational use of the public, Florida lawmakers passed Florida Statute 375.251, the Florida recreational use statute.

Stadium SeatsThe recreational use statute encourages landowners to allow members of the public to use their land by preventing anyone who is injured while using a landowner’s property from holding the landowner responsible for any injuries sustained. Importantly, the immunity conferred by the recreational use statute is not absolute, and immunity will not attach if the landowner charges a fee to use or access the land, or if the landowner engages in “deliberate, willful, or malicious” conduct.

A recent case illustrates how one court strictly interpreted a similar recreational use statute, rejecting the plaintiffs’ claim against a stadium where their daughter was seriously injured.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case requiring the court to determine if the defendant hotel had a duty to provide the plaintiff with reasonable assistance. Ultimately, the court concluded that there were issues of fact that needed to be resolved by a jury, and it ordered the case to proceed toward trial.

Hotel RoomThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff checked into the defendant hotel. Prior to checking in, the plaintiff let her husband know where she would be and told him that she would let him know when she arrived. However, the plaintiff never called her husband. Concerned about his wife, the plaintiff’s husband called the hotel to see if his wife had checked in.

The hotel confirmed that the plaintiff did check in, and the front-desk employee asked a maintenance worker to go to the plaintiff’s room to perform a welfare check. The maintenance worker had been employed with the hotel for several years but had never performed a welfare check before.

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Florida landlords are required to take certain precautions when it comes to the safety of the homes they lease to tenants. When a landlord fails to make necessary repairs to a residence or fails to warn a tenant about a known hazard on the property, the landlord may be held financially liable for the tenant’s injuries through a Florida premises liability lawsuit.

StepsEarlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving injuries sustained by a tenant as she was entering the residence that she had leased from the defendant landlord. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the lower court was correct in dismissing both of the plaintiff’s claims. Ultimately, the court concluded that there was conflicting evidence as to whether the landlord conducted necessary repairs, so the plaintiff’s failure-to-repair claim should not have been dismissed.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff rented a home from the defendant. After about 18 months of living in the home, the plaintiff tripped and fell when the heel of her shoe got caught in a crack between the front patio and the top step leading up to the patio.

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Before most Florida personal injury cases reach trial, the court hears a motion for summary judgment from at least one of the parties. A motion for summary judgment asks the court to consider all of the uncontested evidence presented by both sides and make a legal ruling in favor of the moving party. Importantly, summary judgment motions can save an immense amount of time if properly filed and litigated. However, it is important to keep in mind that when there is a material issue of contested fact involved in a case, a motion for summary judgment is not appropriate.

Fast FoodA recent case illustrated a court’s unwillingness to grant summary judgment to the defendant in a premises liability case when there was a question whether the defendant had knowledge of the dangerous condition causing the plaintiff’s injury.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was visiting the defendant fast-food restaurant with some family members. After placing his order, the defendant began to walk back to the area of the restaurant where the tables were. As he was walking, he thought he heard a restaurant employee call his name. The plaintiff turned around and tripped on the leg of a high chair that was protruding out into the walkway. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the restaurant, arguing that the restaurant’s negligent placement of the high chair resulted in him tripping, falling, and sustaining serious bodily injuries.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability lawsuit involving a plaintiff who slipped and fell as she was entering the defendant store. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed because there was no evidence showing that the business owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard causing the plaintiff’s fall.

Wet FloorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was accompanying a neighbor to a nearby big-box retail store. As the two arrived, they went to get a shopping cart under the awning immediately outside the store’s entrance. As the plaintiff started to walk toward the store’s entrance, she felt her right leg give out from under her, and she fell on her left knee. The plaintiff was then taken to the hospital and subsequently filed a premises liability lawsuit against the store.

The plaintiff later testified that she did not see the liquid before she fell, that there were no store employees around the liquid at the time of the fall, and that she was not sure what the liquid was or how long it had been there. The store filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to find that it had knowledge of the liquid.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving several interesting issues that are relevant for Florida accident victims. The case required the court to determine whether a school could be held liable for the injuries sustained by a student while playing floor hockey in gym class. Ultimately, the court concluded that the school was not necessarily immune from liability in all circumstances involving gym class injuries, but given the facts of this case, the school was not negligent.

Field Hockey PlayersThe Facts

The plaintiff was a middle-school student at the defendant school. As a part of the physical education curriculum, all students were required to participate in team sports during gym class. One of the sports the students played was floor hockey.

Pursuant to school regulations, safety equipment was not necessary when playing floor hockey. However, the gym teacher instructed the students to avoid “high-sticking” and went over safety rules prior to beginning the game. However, during the game, the plaintiff was accidentally struck in the eye by another student’s stick. As a result, the plaintiff required eye surgery and several follow-up appointments.

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As a general rule, Florida landowners have an obligation to ensure that their property is safe for those whom they invite onto their property. The extent of this obligation depends on the relationship between the parties and takes into account the reason why the plaintiff was on the defendant’s property. For the most part, landowners must take action to clear known hazards or warn of the hazards that may not have been visible by the visitor’s naked eye. If a landowner fails to take the adequate precautions, they may be liable for a visitor’s injuries through a Florida premises liability lawsuit.

CrosswalkIn some cases, a landowner can be held liable for injuries that occur off their property, although this is a much rarer scenario. That is because the general rule is that landowners are not responsible to ensure a visitor’s safety before the visitor enters the property or after they leave the property. However, if the plaintiff can show that the defendant’s conduct increased the dangers involved, or if it obscured the off-site hazards, a defendant may be found liable for injuries occurring off their property.

A recent case provides an in-depth discussion of landowner liability as it pertains to off-site injuries.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability lawsuit requiring the court to determine if the lower court was proper to deny the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment because the plaintiff failed to provide any evidence showing the defendant knew about the hazard that caused her fall.

Gum on SidewalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a patron at a BBQ stand that was located on property owned by a sports club. After dining, the plaintiff slipped and fell on a public sidewalk near the stand. She sustained serious injuries in the fall and filed a premises liability case against both the sports club as well as the county that maintained the sidewalk.

The plaintiff claimed that the sports club was negligent in failing to clean a grease trap, resulting in grease spilling onto the sidewalk. The plaintiff claimed that the county was negligent in failing to clean up the grease on the public sidewalk. The case went to trial, and a jury determined that the sports club and the county were each 50% liable for the plaintiff’s injuries and that the plaintiff was 0% at fault.

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Medical malpractice cases generally present complex scientific or medical concepts that are beyond the understanding of must jurors. For this reason, nearly all Florida medical malpractice cases require the testimony of experts to explain some of the issues in the case to the jurors. Experts can also offer their opinions about whether the care provided by a defendant doctor fell below the generally accepted standard of care.

Examination TableDue to the complex nature of Florida medical malpractice cases, Florida law places certain requirements on plaintiffs filing this type of case. One of the most important differences between medical malpractice cases and other personal injury cases is that medical malpractice cases are subject to a shorter statute of limitations. In Florida, a medical malpractice plaintiff must file their claim within two years of the incident (or, if the injury is not discovered until a later date, within two years of the plaintiff’s discovery of the injury).

A recent case presented a Florida appellate court with the chance to decide whether a plaintiff’s slip-and-fall accident should be considered a medical malpractice case.

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