Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Not surprisingly, slip-and-fall accidents are most common in areas that receive a high volume of foot traffic. Thus, shopping malls, grocery stores, sidewalks, and parking lots are the most common places Florida slip-and-fall accidents occur. Each of these locations presents unique dangers and may implicate multiple defendants. A recent state appellate opinion in a premises liability case illustrates the type of analysis courts engage in when reviewing slip-and-fall claims.

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was shopping at the defendant grocery store. Evidently, the plaintiff finished shopping and was returning her car to the corral in the parking lot that holds the carts until an employee can retrieve them. The plaintiff wheeled the cart into the corral without any issue. However, after depositing the cart into the corral, the plaintiff tripped as she exited the corral.

Apparently, the flat, metal crossbar that connected the two sides of the corral that was supposed to lie flat against the ground was slightly raised. According to the defendant, a delivery driver bumped into the corral a few months earlier, causing the frame of the corral to shift, slightly lifting the crossbar off the ground. The defendant grocery store indicated that it knew about the damaged corral, and had called to inquire about getting it fixed, but the repair was not made.

In March, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case raising an interesting issue involving the liability of a security company. The case presents an interesting issue for Florida accident victims because it required the court to determine if the plaintiff could hold the defendant security company liable for injuries she sustained while at a shopping mall. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff could not do so because she was not a third-party beneficiary of the contract between the mall and the defendant security company.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her husband were shopping at the mall when the plaintiff tripped and fell on a rubber mat. The plaintiff claimed that the mat was protruding from underneath a desk immediately before the secured entrance. At the time of the plaintiff’s fall, an employee of the defendant security company was sitting at the desk. The plaintiff’s husband took pictures of the mat after his wife’s fall, and it appeared to be curled up at the edges.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against several parties, including the security company. The defendant claimed that it owed her no duty of care because it did not control the area where the plaintiff fell and that the plaintiff was not a third-party beneficiary of the contract with the mall. That contract provided that the defendant would, among other things, “ensure that prompt action is taken to prevent or minimize losses, accidents, fires, property damages, safety hazards and security incidents.” The lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

As a general rule, Florida landowners owe those whom they allow or invite onto their property a duty to ensure that the property is reasonably safe. The exact nature of this duty depends on several factors, including the relationship between the parties and the nature of the hazards that are present on the landowner’s property. When a landowner violates this duty, and a guest is injured as a result, the guest may be able to pursue a claim for compensation against the landowner. A recent case decided by a state appellate court illustrates the type of evidence a social guest must present to recover from a landowner.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a guest at a birthday party that was held at the defendant’s home. The defendant, however, was not the host of the party, and had allowed a friend to host the party at his home. When the plaintiff arrived at the party, she walked around the side of the house down to the backyard where the party was being held. As she made her way down a set of stairs, she tripped and fell. After her fall, she saw that there was an orange extension cord running across the steps. The defendant also stated that there were a lot of people inside the home at the time of her fall.

The defendant admitted that he was doing yard work earlier that day, but explained that all of his tools were gas-powered and that he did not use extension cords. He did, however, acknowledge, that he owned several orange extension cords. The defendant also explained that he left his home before the party started and arrived after the plaintiff’s fall, and that he had no knowledge of how the cord got there or who put it there. The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against the defendant, arguing that he was negligent in the maintenance of his property, which resulted in her injuries. The defendant unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment and filed an appeal.

Each year, thousands of people are injured in Florida workplace accidents. Often, these accidents result in serious injury that requires an employee to undergo medical treatment, reducing or eliminating the employee’s ability to work. In severe cases, employees must take months off work and may not ever be able to return to work in the same capacity as before the injury.

Florida law provides injured workers with two avenues of potential compensation for their injuries. The first is through a Florida workers’ compensation claim. The benefits of a workers’ compensation claim are that it will not require an injured employee to establish that their employer was at fault and, in addition, the process of obtaining benefits is a quick one. However, the damages that are available in a workers’ compensation claim are limited, and do not include compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

Florida workplace accident victims may also be able to pursue a personal injury case against one or more parties. Before getting into the specifics of a personal injury case, it is critical that injured workers understand that not every workplace accident can be the basis of a personal injury lawsuit. Under Florida Statutes Section 440.11, a workers’ compensation claim is an injured employee’s sole remedy against their employer in most cases. As a result, a personal injury case may not ordinarily be filed against an employer. However, third-party claims are permitted. A third-party claim is a personal injury claim filed against a non-employer third-party.

In March 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a golf cart accident that occurred on the defendant’s property. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant was more appropriately characterized as a premises liability case or a motor vehicle accident.

The case is important for Florida personal injury victims because it illustrates that there are often multiple theories of liability a plaintiff may be able to pursue against a defendant. In addition, the case shows that the outcome of a plaintiff’s claim may depend on the theory of liability they choose to pursue.

According to the facts section of the appellate court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a golf cart accident. At the time of the crash, the defendant was driving the golf cart, and the accident occurred on the defendant’s land. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the accident, and filed a personal injury case against the defendant. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant negligently operated the golf cart, resulting in her injuries.

In April 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida personal injury lawsuit determining whether the lower court properly allowed the plaintiff leave to amend her complaint to add punitive damages in her claim against the defendant. Ultimately, the court determined that it did not have the authority to review the lower court’s decision.

According to the court’s opinion, a minor child was injured while on a ride called the “Psycho Swing.” The defendant owned the ride. The girl’s parents filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant and several other parties, including the employees operating the ride at the time of their daughter’s injury. The plaintiffs claimed that the ride was missing “crucial safety equipment, safety instructions, etc.” Specifically, the plaintiff contended that the defendant was negligent in renting out the ride without a safety harness or instructions.

Initially, the plaintiffs claim only included a request for compensatory damages. However, after obtaining additional information, the plaintiff’s sought to amend their complaint to seek punitive damages. The court granted the plaintiff’s request, and the defendant appealed the court’s decision immediately.

Under general Florida premises liability law, a landowner has an obligation to ensure that their property is safe for those whom they allow onto their land. In Florida, as is the case in many states, the duty owed to a guest depends mainly on the reason for the guest’s visit. (Note: while trespassers may also be owed a duty under certain situations, that duty is limited and not discussed in this post.)

In general, there are two categories of welcome guests under Florida premises liability law. First, a licensee is someone who enters the landowner’s property for mutual benefit. Typically, these are family members, friends, and social guests. Licensees must be warned about any hazards that are known to the property owner but not obviously visible. The second category of visitor is an invitee. An invitee is someone who enters another’s property for the benefit of the landowner. Historically, invitees were limited to customers or those who entered another’s land for business purposes.

Of course, there are exceptions to these general principles. One of these exceptions is called the “firefighter’s rule.” Over the years, courts developed a rule that firefighter’s and other emergency responders could not hold a property owner liable for injuries they sustained while on the landowner’s property. The firefighter’s rule was based on the principle of “assumption of the risk,” meaning that a firefighter should be aware that her profession is a dangerous one and, by agreeing to serve in that capacity, she accepts and adopts those risks. Of course, this severely limits a firefighter’s ability to recover for her injuries when they are injured on the job, even when their injuries are the result of a landowner’s negligence.

Given the beautiful weather in the Sunshine State, it is no surprise that swimming pools are common across Florida. In fact, it is estimated that there are over 1.1 million swimming pools in Florida. While the majority of property owners include the necessary safety features when putting in a swimming pool. Swimming pools still present a significant hazard, especially to children.

Because swimming pools are so popular, there are a correspondingly high number of Florida personal injury and wrongful death claims based on Florida swimming pool accidents. Realizing that drowning is the leading cause of death among Florida children, lawmakers passed the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act (RSPSA).

The RSPSA acknowledges that the most effective way to avoid a drowning death is supervision by a responsible adult. Of course, many Florida swimming pool accidents occur without an adult being present. This often occurs when a child is able to make their way to the pool unbeknownst to adults. Thus, the RSPSA requires that all Florida swimming pools contain at least one of the following safety features:

Frequently, this blog discusses cases involving a landowner’s duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition, or to warn visitors of known hazards. Most often, the dangers we refer to in these cases involve some defect with the property itself. However, Florida premises liability cases are not limited to these types of situations.

In some cases, a landowner can be held responsible for the criminal acts of a third party. While these cases are often referred to as Florida negligent security cases, they are actually based on the traditional theories of negligence. Thus, under Florida law, to establish that a landowner is liable for the intentional criminal acts of a third party, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the landowner did not act with reasonable care to prevent such criminal conduct. Most importantly, this requires the plaintiff to establish that the third-party’s conduct was foreseeable.

A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts view this type of premises liability claim, and the kind of evidence that may be required to establish a landowner’s liability.

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While Florida landowners generally owe a duty to keep their property safe and to warn visitors of any dangerous conditions on their land, Florida lawmakers have created an exception in the state’s recreational use statute. The Florida recreational use statute was passed “to encourage persons to make available to the public land, water areas and park areas for outdoor recreational purposes by limiting their liability.”

Thus, under Florida statutes section 375.251, a landowner who allows the public to use their property for recreational purposes “owes no duty of care to keep that park area or land safe for entry or use by others, or to give warning to persons entering or going on that park area or land of any hazardous conditions, structures, or activities thereon.” However, the recreational use statute only applies if the landowner derives no commercial benefit from the use of their property.

There are limits to the protection that the recreational use statute provides to landowners, however. For example, the statute does not protect against the “deliberate, willful or malicious injury to persons or property.” A recent federal appellate case illustrates the type of scenario where the recreational use statute may not apply.

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