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Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Florida premises liability lawsuits often involve a slip and fall or trip and fall. These accidents can occur at businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, nursing homes, and public buildings. Generally, under state law, business owners and land occupiers owe invitees a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. Despite the law, property owners often fail to maintain their property safely and often delay making repairs or address hazards.

On the other hand, in some instances, a business owner may believe their property is safe. In these cases, the trier of fact will determine whether the property is safe under a “reasonable person” standard. In other words, the court will ask whether another similarly situated entity would act similarly or evaluate the danger in the same way. Moreover, some business owners may argue that the danger was “open and obvious.” When this occurs, the court will determine whether the condition was so open and obvious that it serves as a warning to the invitee to protect themselves from its dangers.

For example, in a recent opinion, a Florida court addressed whether a groove in the pavement in an ice cream store’s parking lot was an open and obvious hazard. In that case, a woman was navigating a parking lot to get to the ice cream shop when she tripped and fell into a groove in the pavement. The woman initiated a lawsuit against the parking lot owner, alleging that her injuries arose because of its negligence. At trial, the defendant argued that the depression in the pavement was so open and obvious that the woman should have realized its dangers and taken steps to avoid hurting herself.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion addressing, amongst other issues, whether negligence per se applied in the plaintiff’s lawsuit arising after an elevator accident. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the owner of a two-story building after suffering injuries when stepping onto an elevator in the building. Evidently, the elevator door opened while the elevator was still several inches below the door’s entrance, causing the plaintiff to fall into the elevator. The lawsuit alleged negligence, negligence per, and res ipsa loquitor. The defendant argued that they were not negligent, the plaintiff was comparatively negligent, and the incident was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed, arguing that the ruling was improper because there was a genuine issue of material fact. One of the primary issues on appeal was whether the building’s owner was liable under negligence per se.

Negligence per se is a legal theory that places liability on a defendant based on their violation of a statute. The theory applies in situations where the defendant engaged in conduct that violated a statute designed to protect against the type of injury the victim suffered. Historically, negligence per se decisions stem from the violation of a statute designed to protect a specific class of people, a violation of a penal statute, or a violation of statutes designed to protect the public.

When we send our children to daycare, we trust that they will be safe, well taken care of, and protected while we’re at work. However, Florida daycare accidents happen, and no parent ever wants to receive a phone call informing them that their child has been hurt. When parents entrust daycare centers and caregivers to watch over their children, they should be able to do so without worrying about unsafe facilities or neglectful caretakers. Thus, when accidents occur, those individuals responsible should be held accountable for their actions.

In a recent state appellate court opinion, the plaintiffs sued on behalf of their son, who suffered a serious injury while at a daycare facility. Evidently, while the child was sleeping, an unsecured television collapsed on him. Barely two years old, the impact from the accident crushed part of his skull and left him connected to a ventilator for nine days. The child subsequently suffered significant developmental issues following the accident. The plaintiffs sued the daycare facility, its owner, and the employee directly responsible for caring for their son, asserting claims of negligence and premises liability. After trial, the jury awarded the plaintiffs $30.3 million in compensatory damages.

The daycare appealed the damages award and judgment entered against them, attempting to secure a new trial. The daycare argued that there was juror misconduct and an introduction of extraneous information that tainted the jury’s judgment and influenced the verdict. Ultimately, the court disagreed with the defendants’, holding that there was no extraneous information that actually prejudiced the verdict and denied the daycare’s request for a new trial.

For some, flying is stressful. For others, it’s the beginning of an adventure. But everyone knows that when you get on a plane, there’s a certain amount of risk in traveling. However, no one expects to board a flight and leave with a physical injury. When an airline is responsible for injuring a Florida passenger, the airline may be accountable.

When an airline passenger suffers a physical injury while embarking or disembarking on a plane, the only available recourse is to sue the airline for recovery under the Montreal Convention, which trumps any state law claims the passenger could bring. The Convention requires that the passenger bring suit within two years of the date of arrival at the destination.

In a recent appellate case, a plaintiff was on a flight to London when he was accused of stealing a crew member’s bag. Although the bag was found later, the airline refused to let the plaintiff disembark the flight. The plaintiff was an older gentleman who recently had surgery on his leg and had not yet fully recovered. When the airline turned the man over to the authorities, he was marched around the airport to multiple locations while being forced to carry his luggage with no help. Despite showing obvious signs of exhaustion, pain, and distress, the plaintiff was never given an opportunity to sit down. After denying the accusations against him to a police officer, the officer told him he was free to go.

Recently, a plaintiff appealed a court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Dollar General in a Florida slip and fall case. The plaintiff’s complaint alleged the defendant was liable for injuries that he suffered after falling on a patch of laundry detergent in the store. The plaintiff appealed after the trial court’s judgment in favor of the defendant, arguing that the defendant failed to maintain the premises in a safe condition. Further, the plaintiff argued that genuine issues of material fact remained as to whether the defendant was negligent in its failure to warn of the danger.

According to the opinion, a customer dropped a detergent bottle near the checkout counter at the store. A manager and employee were working behind the counter when the spill occurred. In response, the manager left the employee to continue checking out customers, while he went to get supplies to clean up the spill. Neither party notified any other employee of the spill. Less than a minute after the spill, the plaintiff entered the store and slipped on the detergent. About thirty seconds later, the manager returned with materials to clean up the spill.

In Florida, slip and fall plaintiffs must establish that the defendant owed them duty and that their breach resulted in the plaintiff’s damages. Defendants who move for summary judgment must prove that they did not owe a duty or that they did not breach a duty. Florida business owners owe their customers the duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. They must warn the customer of concealed dangers that the business knows or should have known about, which the customer could not have discovered.

In a recent ruling, a Florida court upheld a verdict in favor of a man who was injured when he slipped and fell in his shower. The plaintiff’s claim was based on the landlord’s failure to properly fix the shower drain. Evidently, the defendant landlord had been notified about the issue on multiple occasions, but maintenance workers were unable to fix the problem. One day, the plaintiff slipped in the shower and landed on a ceramic soap tray. His injury required 30 stitches, and continuous therapy. The man later sued his landlord claiming that his injury was the result of the landlord’s negligence.

Florida law states that residential landlords have a general duty to repair dangerous, defective conditions when the landlord becomes aware of their existence. If the landlord fails to correct a known hazard, they may be held liable for injuries that occur as a result of the dangerous or defective condition. In this appeal, the defendant landlord asked the court to reverse the trial court’s decision in favor of the plaintiff. However, the court refused to disturb the trial court’s decision because it found enough evidence to support the verdict.

The key issue here was proximate cause. Proximate cause is the legal concept used to determine whether a harm caused to the plaintiff was the reasonably foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions. In order to find that a defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of an injury, the judge or jury must conclude that the injury was a natural and ordinary consequence of the defendant’s negligence. Therefore, a plaintiff must present facts that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that their injury was the foreseeable result of the defendant’s wrongful actions in order to successfully recover on a negligence claim.

In a recent case before a Florida appeals court, the court considered whether there was sufficient evidence the business had constructive notice of water on the floor in a Florida slip and fall case. In that case, the plaintiff fell when he was at a plasma donation center. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff went to donate plasma, and after he arrived, he completed paperwork and sat down in the waiting room. After about 45 minutes had passed, the plaintiff went to the men’s bathroom. He took a couple of steps inside and fell, suffering injuries that included a broken orbital bone.

The plaintiff filed a negligence claim against the center. He alleged that when he fell, he slipped and was pushed forward onto the floor. He testified that he saw about a cup of dirty water on the floor, a couple of muddy footprints, and a skid mark. He testified that some of the liquid got onto the side of his shirt. He said it appeared that somebody had slipped previously, and that there were at least two footprints that looked “like muddy footprints.” A medical supervisor at the facility wrote up an incident report that day, indicating that he checked the bathroom floor for liquid and did not find any. Still, it was not clear at what time he wrote the report, and the supervisor did not remember what he did when he entered the bathroom to investigate. According to the evidence, it was also possible that a janitor had already come and cleaned the bathroom.

Under Florida law, a business owner has a duty to invitees to take reasonable care to keep its premises reasonably safe, to warn of dangers it knew of or should have known of and which the invitee could not discover. Under section 768.0755 of Florida Statutes, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the foreign substance. Under that statute, a plaintiff must prove that the business had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have “taken action to remedy it.” The statute provides that constructive knowledge can be proven by showing that the condition existed for a length of time that the business should have known about the condition if it had exercised ordinary care, or the condition was foreseeable because it occurred regularly.

Florida landowners or occupiers have certain duties towards people who come on their property. The duties owed toward individuals depends on the relationship between the landowner and the entrant. The three classes of entrants recognized in Florida premises liability cases are invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Florida landowners and occupiers owe some degree of duty towards all three classes of entrants.

In the case of an “obvious danger,” Florida law recognizes that people can be assumed to perceive such dangers. If there is an obvious danger, a landowner or occupier may not be obligated to warn others of those dangers. Yet, a landowner is still required to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. This means that even if a landowner is relieved of warning others of apparent dangers, the landowner could still be liable for failing to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition.

A recent case before a federal appeals court showed how a property owner could be liable for failing to warn of a hazard and also of failing to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. In that case, the plaintiff tripped on the leg of a lounge chair when she was walking on a cruise ship. While on their way to a restaurant on the cruise ship, the plaintiff had to walk on a curved walkway between a row of lounge chairs and the ship’s railing. The plaintiff said that the space was so narrow that she walked behind her husband, which she said obstructed her view, and, that while she was walking, she tripped on the leg of a lounge chair, causing her to fall.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a consolidated appeal arising from the tragic mass murders at the Pulse nightclub. The facts indicate that the shooter entered the nightclub shooting and injuring fifty-three patrons and killing forty-nine others. The survivors and decedents’ representatives filed a lawsuit against the company that hired the shooter to work as a “Custom Protection Officer.” The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant breached their duty to engage in an appropriate investigation of their prospective employees before hiring them, and this negligence created a foreseeable zone of risk to the general public.

In support of their claim, they provided evidence that the defendant knew that the man was dismissed from a corrections officer training class for making statements suggesting that he would bring a gun to class. Despite this knowledge, the defendant hired the man for a position that required him to obtain a Class G firearm license. The license requires a psychological evaluation, and the defendants submitted a fraudulent one on behalf of the man.

While the man was working for the company, the Sheriff’s Department demanded that the defendant terminate the man because he continually threatened his colleagues and claimed to be associated with various terrorist groups. About two weeks before the shooting, the man tried to purchase ammunition from a licensed gun dealer, but he was turned away. A week later, he brought his Class G license to a different retailer and purchased the guns that he used for the mass shooting. The plaintiffs maintain that the defendants owed them a legal duty because they were in the foreseeable zone of risk that the defendants created.

Recently, an appellate court issued its opinion in an appeal stemming from the tragic death of a man in a Florida hotel swimming pool. The man’s wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hotel alleging, among other issues, that the hotel was responsible for the death of her husband because they failed to hire professional lifeguards to supervise its swimming pool.

According to the court’s opinion, the man was a guest of the hotel when he entered the swimming pool, which was operated and maintained by the hotel. While the man was swimming, he became submerged and died from drowning. His wife alleged that that the hotel breached their duty to provide and maintain a reasonably safe swimming pool and failed to protect their guests from unreasonable risk of physical harm. During the trial, the court provided the jury with an instruction that Florida law had no legal duty to “post a professional lifeguard at its pool.” The woman appealed the jury instruction and the trial court’s ruling granting the defendant summary judgment.

Under Florida law, negligence occurs when a person or entity fails to exercise reasonable care by engaging in a behavior that a reasonably careful person would not do, or failing to do something that a reasonably prudent person would do under similar circumstances. Generally, trial courts maintain the discretion to determine whether a jury instruction is appropriate, and instructions should not be overturned on appeal, unless there is a showing of prejudicial error.

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