Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

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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In most Florida personal injury cases, the judge’s role is to determine which evidence is admissible at trial, rule on any objections that are made during the course of the trial, and ultimately instruct the jury on the relevant law after the parties have rested. Judges also are responsible for hearing any post-trial motions and ruling on these motions.

Slip and Fall In most cases, once a jury returns a verdict in a Florida personal injury case, that decision is final. However, there are a few exceptions to that general rule. First, either party may be able to appeal a legal decision made by the judge during the course of the trial. For example, if one party believes that the court unfairly kept evidence from the jury’s consideration, they may appeal that ruling to a higher court.

Another example of this is when the trial judge determines that the jury’s verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence. This is usually argued in a post-trial motion brought by the side that did not prevail at trial, arguing that the jury was wrong in its determination based on the evidence presented. In order to succeed in this type of claim, a party must show that the jury based its decision on evidence that did not exist or was not admitted. A recent case illustrates the courts’ general reluctance to override a jury’s verdict.

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When someone is injured due to the negligence of a Florida government employee or entity, they may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. However, lawsuits that are filed against government defendants in Florida have certain additional requirements that must be met, or the accident victim risks the court dismissing their case before it is heard.

Drain CoverIn Florida, accident victims must file a pre-suit notice to the government agency that they are naming as a defendant. According to Florida Statutes section 768.28, state and local governments in Florida must be served with a pre-suit notice of a claim within three years of the accident. This notice must contain information about the accident, such as where it occurred, who was involved, the alleged acts of negligence, and what is being requested. If a pre-suit notice is not filed or is insufficient, a court may dismiss any subsequent lawsuit. A recent appellate court opinion out of Georgia details one plaintiff’s experience with an inaccurately drafted pre-suit notice.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when he stepped in an uncovered manhole while walking on a paved street in the defendant city. Initially, the plaintiff reported the hazard to the police department and provided the department with the address of 425 Chappell Road. The plaintiff explained to the police that the uncovered manhole was at the intersection of Chappell Road and Mayson Turner Road.

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Florida premises liability lawsuits often hinge on the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendants. This is because any duty that a landowner may owe to a plaintiff depends on the relationship between the parties and the reason why the plaintiff is on the defendant’s property. A recent appellate decision from nearby Georgia illustrates how a plaintiff’s inability to prove that a certain relationship exists between herself and the defendants may be fatal to her claim.

Dangerous StairsThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff rented a condo in the defendant’s condominium complex from the condo’s owner. However, the plaintiff did not enter into a formal written lease with the owner of the condo. Instead, the two had an oral agreement.

While the plaintiff was living in the condo, she was bothered by the fact that the staircase leading up to her unit was poorly lit and did not have a handrail. She informed the condominium association that she believed the condition of the stairs was dangerous and requested that the association take action to make the stairs safer. However, the association did nothing.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a slip-and-fall case that presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. The case involved somewhat bare allegations made by the plaintiff that were unsupported by any other evidence. As a result, the court determined that the doctrine did not apply and that the lower court was proper not to infer that the defendant was negligent.

StaircaseThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff slipped and fell through a set of wooden stairs at the home where she was living with the defendant. At the time, the defendant was the sole owner of the home. Several years after her fall, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, seeking compensation for the injuries she sustained in the fall.

The plaintiff claimed that the stairs were rotted due to an insect infestation and that the defendant should have been aware of the problem and warned her of the potential danger. However, since the plaintiff had no evidence that the defendant knew of the stairs’ condition, she asked the court to apply the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to infer that the defendant was negligent.

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Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who tripped and fell while practicing on-stage with a church band. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the “assumption of the risk doctrine” and when it is appropriate for a court to prevent a plaintiff’s case from proceeding by determining that the plaintiff assumed the risks involved with the activity that led to his injuries.

On StageAssumption of the Risk

In some cases in which a person is injured while engaging in an activity that he or she knew to be dangerous, courts may prevent that person from holding other parties responsible for their injuries, based on the theory that the plaintiff assumed the risk of the dangerous activity. Generally, in order to establish an assumption of the risk defense, a defendant must be able to show that the injured party knew that the activity was dangerous and willingly participated in the activity despite knowledge of the risks. Assumption of the risk defenses are common in cases involving contact sports or other high-risk activities.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a member of the defendant church and also played in the church band. One day during rehearsals, the plaintiff tripped and fell on an unsecured cord that ran across the stage to power the electric bass guitar. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the church, arguing that the church failed to safely maintain the stage area.

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Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case against a water company after a woman tripped on a valve owned by the company. The court ultimately determined that the water company may be held liable not just for the maintenance of the valve itself but also for the area surrounding the valve.

Cracked PavementThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking on a public street when she tripped on a water valve cover. According to the plaintiff, the valve cover had become separated from the surrounding asphalt and had risen slightly above ground level, creating a tripping hazard. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against both the city as well as the water company.

Three months after the plaintiff’s injury, the water company fixed the asphalt around the valve cover. The case proceeded toward trial, and in a pre-trial motion, the water company was successful in excluding evidence of the asphalt repairs it had made from the jury’s consideration. After that, the water company argued that the evidence presented was insufficient to show that it was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because it was not responsible for maintaining the area around the valve cover. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the water company.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case that was brought by a woman who slipped and fell while attempting to board a train. The plaintiff filed her claim against the transportation agency that operated the train and maintained the station. However, since the woman was unable to prove that the puddle of rainwater in which she slipped constituted a “dangerous condition,” the case was dismissed.

Train StationThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff arrived at the train station on a rainy day. As she approached the station, she entered a covered platform where commuters would wait to board the train. A few feet from where the entrance to the covered platform was, there was a small puddle of rainwater that had accumulated due to the day’s rain.

The plaintiff later explained that she knew it had been raining, saw the puddle of water, and slipped as she stepped in the puddle. She explained that the concrete in the area where the puddle had formed was darker, as though water had been accumulating in that area for a period of months or years.

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Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case that was brought by a man who had fallen after slipping on a puddle of oil in a condominium complex. In reversing the lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the appellate court held that it was improper for the court to assess the credibility of the plaintiff’s witness at the summary judgment stage.

ElevatorsThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking in a common area in the defendant’s condo complex when he slipped and fell after stepping in a puddle of oil. After picking himself up, the plaintiff noticed that the oil was coming from underneath the door to the elevator service closet. He estimated the puddle to be about four feet by five feet.

After the plaintiff informed the defendant of his fall, the defendant sent out an elevator technician to fix the leak. The technician determined that the leak was caused by a seal that had deteriorated. He estimated that the output was about one drip every two seconds; however, he did not provide an estimate regarding when the leak had started.

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Earlier this month, a Rhode Island appellate court issued a written opinion discussing principles that are important to understand for anyone considering filing a personal injury case in South Florida. The case arose out of a slip-and-fall accident that occurred in a public park. The issue for the court to decide was whether evidence of the city’s knowledge of the dangerous condition was admissible when it was presented to the court for the first time on appeal. The court held that the evidence, as well as any argument stemming from the evidence, was not admissible because it was not presented to the trial court.

Baseball DiamondA Boy Breaks His Leg While Playing Baseball

The plaintiffs’ son was playing baseball in a public park that was owned and operated by the defendant city. During the game, the plaintiffs’ son slid into home plate and got his lower leg stuck under the base. As he stood up, he broke his leg in two places. The plaintiffs filed a premises liability lawsuit, claiming that the city was negligent in failing to safely maintain the park, including the home plate where their son was injured.

The defendant city claimed that it was immune from liability under the recreational use statute, which protects landowners that allow others to use their land for recreational purposes and do not charge a fee for doing so. The plaintiffs made only a broad objection to the applicability of the recreational use statute, without explaining the basis for the objection. The court ultimately granted the city’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiffs appealed.

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