Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Florida landowners are responsible to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition for those whom they invite onto the premises. This includes not just individuals, but also businesses and government entities. However, not all slip-and-fall accidents will result in the landowner being liable for the injuries of the person who was injured. In order to succeed in a Florida premises liability case, the plaintiff must be able to establish, among other things, that the defendant landowner knew about the hazard that resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.

Parking GarageIn a recent slip-and-fall case arising out of neighboring Georgia, the court had the opportunity to discuss premises liability law as it pertained to a case involving a man who fell on a patch of black ice after exiting his car in a hospital parking garage. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to meet his burden of showing that the defendant knew about the black ice. As a result, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was dropping his wife off at the defendant hospital for a minor medical procedure. After the plaintiff dropped off his wife, he proceeded to the uncovered top level of the hospital’s parking garage.

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When someone is injured on the property of another party due to some defect or hazard on the property, they may file a South Florida premises liability lawsuit against the landowner, seeking compensation for their injuries. In general, landowners owe a duty of care to most people who enter their land. The extent to which a landowner must go to provide a safe property depends heavily on the relationship between the parties and the reason why the visitor is on the landowner’s property.

Rope SwingOne question that often comes up in Florida premises liability lawsuits is whether an accident victim can recover compensation when they are hurt on another party’s land while engaging in a recreational activity, such as swimming, hiking, hunting, fishing, or boating. The answer, as with many questions in the law, is “it depends.”

Under Florida’s recreational use statute, Florida Statute 375.251, some landowners who allow others to use their property for recreational purposes are immune from liability. In order to qualify for this immunity, a landowner must show that they allowed the injured person to use their land for a recreational purpose and did not collect a fee for doing so. The burden is on the landowner to establish these elements, and a landowner’s failure to present evidence of each will result in the court declining to find that the landowner is immune from liability. A recent case illustrates how a court might analyze a recreational use defense.

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A large number of Florida premises liability cases are resolved through pre-trial settlement negotiations. Indeed, settling a personal injury case is preferable for many plaintiffs, who do not want to risk taking the case to trial, which may result in a defense verdict or an inadequate award amount. However, settlement agreements should be treated with caution. A recent appellate opinion discusses how one plaintiff’s execution of an overly broad settlement agreement actually dismissed multiple defendants from the case, despite her lack of intention to do so.

SidewalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a slip-and-fall accident that occurred outside an auto parts store. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, an employee of the auto parts store had recently mowed the lawn in front of the store and failed to clean up the grass clippings.

As it turns out, there was a recessed area in the pavement where a utility box sat. The grass clippings covered up this recessed area, and as the plaintiff walked past, she stepped in the hole, causing her to fall and sustain serious injuries.

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Florida landowners generally have a duty to make sure that their property is safe to those whom they invite onto their property. If a landowner, including a business or government entity, fails to maintain their property, and someone is injured as a result, the injured party may be able to recover compensation for their injuries through a Florida premises liability lawsuit.

RollerbladesThere is an exception to this general rule, however, and that lies within the Florida recreational use statute, F.S. 375-251. The statute provides immunity from liability to certain landowners who open up their land for the public’s general use. In order to qualify for this immunity, a landowner must not charge a fee for the use of the land. A recent Florida appellate opinion discusses the applicability of a recreational use statute to a rollerblade injury case, finding that the plaintiff was prevented from bringing a lawsuit against the government entity he claimed was responsible for his injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was rollerblading on the street in Delray Beach when he encountered a pothole. Unable to maintain his balance as he hit the pothole, the plaintiff fell to the ground, resulting in serious injuries. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the City of Delray Beach. The plaintiff admitted that it was against the law to rollerblade in the street but nonetheless argued that the city was negligent in maintaining the roadway and letting a pothole develop.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a woman who was injured when a fallen tree struck her in the apartment complex where she lived. The case presented the court with the opportunity to determine whether the plaintiff’s case was sufficient as a matter of law and should therefore survive the summary judgment challenge filed by the defendants. This case is helpful for South Florida premises liability plaintiffs because it clearly illustrates the elements of a premises liability lawsuit.

Fallen TreeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a tenant at the defendants’ apartment complex. One day, during a particularly heavy storm, a tree on an adjacent piece of property was knocked over. As the tree fell, it got caught on the gutter of the apartment building where the plaintiff lived.

The tree remained suspended from the apartment building for some time. The plaintiff reached out to the defendants, asking them to remove the tree, but no action was taken. Ultimately, the plaintiff contacted a fellow resident she knew to also work as a part-time maintenance worker for the defendants.

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Establishing the breach of a duty is one of the most contested issues in South Florida premises liability lawsuits. Essentially, in order to establish this element, a plaintiff must point to some negligent act or omission of the defendant that violated a duty owed to the plaintiff.

Florida SunsetEarlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury lawsuit filed by the father of a young boy who drowned while swimming in a pool at a condominium complex. The appellate court was tasked with determining if the trial court was proper to grant the defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on the plaintiff’s failure to establish that the defendant was negligent. After reviewing each of the plaintiff’s claims, the court determined that the condo association was not negligent in any way and affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s son was swimming in a pool that was located inside a condominium complex operated by the defendant condo association. The boy was accompanied by several family members, none of whom lived in the condo complex. While the boy’s aunt did live in the complex, she was not present while the group was using the pool.

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When a plaintiff files a Florida personal injury claim, it is imperative that they name all of the potentially liable parties and include all of the relevant theories of liability as soon as practicable. This often means conducting a thorough investigation prior to filing the lawsuit in order to make sure that a plaintiff has all of the information to properly file a case. Of course, it is possible to amend a complaint after it is initially filed for a short time; however, if a plaintiff waits too long to amend a complaint, they will be stuck with what was initially pleaded.

Empty Swimming PoolThis can create several problems for Florida personal injury plaintiffs. For example, the trial judge can only instruct the jury on the allegations contained in the plaintiff’s complaint. Thus, even if a plaintiff uncovers evidence during the trial that may help them prove liability through an unpleaded theory, they may be prevented from doing so. A recent premises liability case issued by a state appellate court illustrates how exacting appellate courts can be when interpreting the allegations of a plaintiff’s initial complaint.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was an investor looking to buy a rental property through the defendant realtor. One of the defendant’s listings was a home that had a pool in the back yard. The defendant contacted a pool maintenance company and performed the necessary maintenance to the pool prior to listing the home.

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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.

Slipping HazardThe 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.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a premises liability case that was brought by the mother of a child who was struck by an errant golf ball as she was wheeling her son in a stroller on a walking path owned and maintained by the city. The appellate court hearing the case determined that the city was not entitled to government trail immunity because the dangerous hazard that caused the injury was not a condition of the trail itself.

Golf BallThe Facts of the Case

The walking path where the injury occurred directly abuts a private golf course. A few years before the accident, the golf course installed a fence and strategically planted large trees to decrease the likelihood that golf balls would leave the course. However, there was no evidence that the city took any precaution regarding golf balls that were hit out of the boundaries of the golf course.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city as well as the golf course. The plaintiff claimed that the city failed to take any action to remedy the known dangerous condition created by the potential of errant golf balls.

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Earlier this month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit released a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit against the federal government, alleging that the United States Forest Service, through its employees, was negligent in the maintenance of bike trails in a forest. The court ultimately determined that the alleged acts of negligence were covered under governmental immunity, and it rejected the plaintiff’s claims.

Mountain Bike TireThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and a friend were mountain biking in the De Soto National Forest. The bikers began their trip at the Couch Loop Trail. While the trail was closed, the plaintiff did not stop at the trail-head bulletin board, where the notice of closure was posted.

The plaintiff and her friend rode the Couch Loop Trail until they decided to take an “alternate route” to the left. This alternate route led the bikers to an area with several obstacles that had been built by a local bike association. As the plaintiff attempted to negotiate one of the obstacles, she fell off her bike and was seriously injured. She then filed a premises liability lawsuit against the U.S. government, claiming that the Forest Service was negligent in its maintenance of the bike trails. The plaintiff also alleged that the Forest Service was negligent in failing to warn her about the potential dangerous conditions present on the trails.

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