Articles Posted in Premises Liability

A state appellate court recently released an opinion in a case discussing the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor as it relates to personal injury matters. Res ipsa loquitor is a Latin phrase that roughly translates to “the thing speaks for itself.” The doctrine may apply in some Florida personal injury cases where the exact cause of a plaintiff’s injury is unknown, but the nature of the accident is such that it would not likely have occurred absent the defendant’s negligence.

The Res Ipsa Loquitor Doctrine

Res ipsa loquitor is an old common-law doctrine that allows for the judge or jury to infer a defendant’s negligence from the surrounding circumstances. For the doctrine to apply, Florida courts require the plaintiff to establish three elements. First, the plaintiff must show that the instrumentality that caused the plaintiff’s injuries was in the sole control of the defendant. Second, that the accident resulting in the plaintiff’s injuries would likely not have happened absent the defendant’s negligence. And finally, that no direct proof of negligence is available.

The Case’s Facts

This case involved a woman who was injured as she was exiting an elevator in the defendant condominium complex. According to the court’s opinion, the woman was exiting the elevator when the doors to the elevator suddenly closed on her. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the condo complex, asserting claims under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor.

Continue reading →

Recently, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether the defendant grocery store had a duty to provide staged shopping carts for the use of customers. Ultimately, the court concluded that the store did not have such a duty and did not voluntarily assume a duty by implementing standard operating procedures directing employees to stage carts when they had spare time.

The case presents an important issue that frequently arises in Florida slip-and-fall cases. Specifically, it involves the existence and extent of a duty that a business owes to its customers.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant grocery store maintains a corral of shopping carts near the store’s entrance. The store employs a greeter whose job it is to stand by the entrance and greet customers. While the greeter’s primary responsibility is to greet customers, the store’s standard operating procedures call for idle greeters to stage shopping carts by dislodging them from one another and loosely nesting them, making it easier for customers to obtain carts.

Continue reading →

Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case that raised an interesting issue that arises in many Florida slip-and-fall cases. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the extent of the duty that was owed to the plaintiff by the defendant, who operated a vacation rental house that was rented out on a weekly basis. This is an important determination because Florida premises liability cases often turn on the extent of the duty the defendant owes to the plaintiff.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a slip-and-fall accident in a vacation rental home that was owned by the defendants. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the defendants rented the fully furnished house out for approximately six months, using the house themselves for the remaining portion of the year.

During the six months when the house was being rented out, the defendants used a property management company to handle the day-to-day affairs. The property management company advertised the home for rent, provided cleaning and linen services in between occupancies, and dealt with the check-in and check-out process.

Continue reading →

Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a fatal drunk driving accident that occurred during the South-By-Southwest Music Festival (SXSW). The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s lawsuit against the event planners should proceed toward trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case against the event planners should be dismissed because the defendants did not control the area where the accident occurred.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the SXSW festival is a city-wide event with various venues across the city participating in festival activities. Thus, the event planners routinely applied for special use permits from the city to close certain city blocks. Specifically, the use permit that was obtained by the event planners stated that all “traffic controls must be provided in accordance with the approved traffic control plan.

One early morning during the festival, police attempted to pull over a motorist for a minor traffic infraction. However, the driver fled police and drove through a series of barriers and directly into a crowd of people. The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a man who was killed by the drunk driver.

Continue reading →

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida premise liability lawsuit discussing a landowner’s liability involving potentially hazardous conditions of the property. Specifically, the case dealt with a hazard that the court held to be “open and obvious.” The court held that because the hazard was easily observable by the plaintiff, the plaintiff was put on notice of the hazard’s existence and thus, the defendant could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was exiting a movie theater when he left the paved sidewalk to cut through a planter box containing a large palm tree. The ground immediately around the base of the palm tree contained artificial turf and some paving bricks that had become uneven as the tree’s roots grew underneath.

As the plaintiff walked across the planter box, he tripped and fell in a divot in the ground. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the fall and filed a premises liability lawsuit against the movie theater.

Continue reading →

In Florida personal injury cases, the jury must make the ultimate decision as to whether the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and what, if any, damages are appropriate. In many cases, the judge will explain the legal issues involved in the case to the jury, and the jurors will then be able to use their common sense to resolve the issues. However, in some cases involving issues that are beyond the understanding of most jurors, the plaintiff may be required to present the testimony of an expert witness.

An expert witness is someone who is an expert in the specific issue raised by the case. In Florida medical malpractice cases, doctors are often used as expert witnesses. In Florida car accident cases, engineers may be called as expert witnesses. There is no hard-and-fast rule stating when an expert is necessary, but Florida law allows for an expert to be called whenever “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge would assist the trier of fact.” While some cases, such as Florida medical malpractice cases, require expert testimony, the decision whether to call an expert witness is normally left to the discretion of the parties.

In a recent appellate decision, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case because she failed to present expert testimony in support of her position.

Continue reading →

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing the duty that a business has to maintain the area that customers use to approach the business. Ultimately, the court concluded that while a business may be responsible for maintaining the immediate area of approach, the business in this case was not liable for the plaintiff’s injury which occurred about 45 feet outside of the store’s doors in the parking lot.

The case presents an interesting issue for Florida slip-and-fall accident victims because it discusses which parties may be liable for the various areas in a commercial shopping center. Importantly, only the store was named in this case, and not the shopping center that owned and maintained the parking lot.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was shopping at a Big Lots store when she slipped on a wet substance in the store’s parking lot while she was on her way back to her car. The location of the plaintiff’s fall was about 45 feet from the store’s door. The store was in a shopping center that was owned by another company, which was not named in the lawsuit.

Continue reading →

In June of this year, six passengers were injured in a Florida roller coaster accident when one of the coaster’s car became derailed from the tracks. Two of the passengers in the front car were thrown from the ride, falling 34 feet to the ground. The remaining passengers waited in cars that were dangling from the tracks for emergency responders to extricate them from the ride. In all, ten people had to be removed by emergency workers, and six were hospitalized with varying injuries.

At the time of the accident, there was much speculation as to what could have caused the ride to malfunction in such a dangerous way. According to a recent news report, an investigation into the accident has uncovered some additional information as to what may have caused the accident.

Evidently, there were several problems that may have contributed to the accident. First, investigators noted that the ride looked as though cars had been derailed in the past, but had not been reported. Generally, Florida roller coasters are inspected twice a year by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). However, ride operators are required to conduct daily inspections prior to opening the ride to the public. This includes inspecting the structural integrity of the ride, as well as the condition of the track and cars. These inspections are required to be kept on hand in the event of an incident.

Continue reading →

In a recent appellate opinion, a court determined that a restaurant may have a duty to take some kind of action to control the population of venomous spiders on the premises. The case presents an interesting issue for potential Florida premises liability plaintiffs because it illustrates the extent of the duty that a business owes its customers.The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and a friend decided to have lunch on the patio of the defendant restaurant. Prior to eating, the plaintiff removed her over shirt and set it down beside her. After the two had finished lunch, the plaintiff put the shirt back on. As soon as the plaintiff’s shirt was back on, she felt a sharp pain in her shoulder. She told her friend that she thought something had bitten her.

Not thinking that anything was seriously wrong, the plaintiff went home. However, the next day, she woke up completely numb and unable to move her arms or legs. She managed to call for help using her nose, and she was ultimately admitted to the hospital, where she stayed for six days.

Continue reading →

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability case requiring the court to determine if the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to survive a defense motion for summary judgment. Although the trial court granted the defendant’s motion, finding that the plaintiff presented insufficient evidence that the defendant was aware of the hazard that caused his fall, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision based on the plaintiff’s own testimony.

Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is a stage in many Florida personal injury cases in which one or both parties ask the judge to rule in their favor prior to trial. A judge will grant a party’s motion for summary judgment only when there are no contested issues of fact and, after considering the uncontested evidence, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Essentially this means that after taking into account the uncontested evidence, the non-moving party would not be able to prevail at trial.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was seriously injured when a heavy object fell and struck him in the back of the leg while he was shopping in the defendant hardware store. After the accident, the plaintiff was told by an employee that the object that hit him was a trailer hitch that had fallen from high up on the shelf. The plaintiff testified that after the accident, he saw employees stacking trailer hitches high up on the shelves.

Continue reading →

Contact Information