Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

In a recent case, the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida Third District issued an opinion in an appeal in a premise liability case between a worker, Raul Arias, who was injured at his place of employment, Excel Converting, Inc., and Codealtex, LLC, the company that leases the property to Excel. Appellant Raul Arias was injured while operating machinery at Excel and subsequently sued Codealtex, alleging it had a duty to maintain the premises and the machinery that he was injured by.

Excel leased the premises where Arias was injured from Codealtex. Arias sued Codealtex, alleging it had a duty to maintain the premises and specifically the machinery on which he was injured. Codealtex moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Arias timely appealed. The appeals court decision emphasized control of the property, finding that “once a landlord delivers possession and control of the leased premises . . . to the tenant, the landlord is not liable for injury to the property or person of the tenant or those on the premises with the permission of the tenant.” As a result, the appellate court affirmed the lower court decision, upholding the summary judgment ruling.

While the open and obvious doctrine can prevent plaintiffs from successfully holding landowners fully accountable for injuries in Florida, there are other ways to make sure injured parties are properly compensated. Florida landowners are still required to maintain their land and the premises in a safe condition. The courts of Florida have ruled that landowners can still be at fault for failing to maintain safe premises, even if an obvious or open danger means they do not need to warn others. Specifically, even in circumstances that are open or obvious, property owners should anticipate that people on the property will encounter the hazard, and subsequently can be found negligent for failing to maintain the premises safely. In such a situation, the plaintiff may be found to have contributed to their own injury, but the landowner can still be apportioned blame.

In a recent case, the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida Fifth District issued an opinion in an appeal in a slip and fall case between Dollar General, the defendant, and Kimberly Doty, the plaintiff and customer of the store. The suit resulted from an incident where the plaintiff slipped and fell as she entered the Dollar General store.

On July 3, 2017, a Dollar General store in Port Orange displayed seasonal merchandise in two “U-boats”—carts shaped like hotel baggage carriers—outside the store’s entrance. When it started raining that afternoon, Dollar General employee Barbara Ralph moved the U-boats indoors and placed a wet floor sign nearby. When the rain stopped, Dollar General employee Robert Boarder put the U-boats back outside and moved the wet floor sign. Moments later, Kimberly Doty entered the store. She made it a few steps inside before she slipped and fell. She later sued Dollar General for negligence, alleging that “a puddle of water near the main entrance” caused her to fall.

At trial, Dollar General moved for a directed verdict, claiming there was no evidence that it knew about the water on the floor that Doty slipped on. The trial court denied the motion. The court suggested that Dollar General’s arguments were aimed at the weight rather than the sufficiency of the evidence presented and reasoned that it is the role of the jury to weigh the incident report collectively with all the other case evidence. Ultimately, the jury found Dollar General liable for Doty’s fall. Dollar General moved to set aside the verdict and enter judgment for Dollar General, claiming again that there was no evidence showing that it knew about the water on the floor. The trial court denied the motion, and Dollar General appealed, again maintaining the evidence warranted a directed defense verdict.

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In a recent case, the District Court of Appeals of the State of Florida First District issued an opinion in an appeal involving a duty to warn or duty of reasonable care liability action between a plaintiff who was a visitor in a hospital, and the defendant, the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH). The suit resulted from an incident where the plaintiff slipped on some liquid as she exited an elevator on the ground floor and sustained injuries that required her to be hospitalized.

The trial court found in favor of the defendant, granting summary judgment and finding that the plaintiff failed to show that a TMH employee knew that he was creating a dangerous condition. On appeal, the court held that there was no material fact dispute. As the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence the appellate court ruled that no reasonable jury could find for the plaintiff at trial and summary judgment for TMH was the correct ruling.

During the trial, the plaintiff advanced a theory that she slipped on water left in the elevator by a stretcher pushed out of the elevator by TMH employees immediately before she entered. The plaintiff’s complaint further contended that TMH negligently maintained its premises and allowed a dangerous condition to persist without warning her or taking steps to ameliorate the condition. She sought compensation for the damage she suffered from the slip-and-fall at TMH. The trial court found that the plaintiff failed to present substantive evidence from which a jury reasonably could infer that the TMH employees knew of the dripping water, or that the employees could have done anything to correct the unsafe conditions in the short time that passed between the stretcher coming off the elevator and her entering it. The trial court granted the defendant’s request for summary judgment and the plaintiff’s appeal followed.

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In a recent appeals case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit produced an opinion for an appeal involving a summary judgment ruling in a negligence case in Florida. The plaintiff-appellant was injured when she slipped on a grape in a Wal-Mart store and she subsequently sued the defendant-appellee, Wal-Mart Stores East, LP (Wal-Mart), for negligence. At trial, after the discovery process was completed, Wal-Mart moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted, finding that the plaintiff failed to raise a genuine dispute of material fact that Wal-Mart had constructive knowledge that Wal-Mart had constructive knowledge of the grape, and thus she could not succeed on a negligence claim under Florida law. The plaintiff then filed a timely appeal.

The incident in question occurred on August 23, 2018, when the plaintiff was shopping at a Wal-Mart in West Palm Beach when she slipped on a grape and fell on her back and left side. A nearby employee helped her get up. The plaintiff reported feeling dizzy, and after filling out a Customer Incident Report, she went to Palm Beach Gardens Hospital, where she received treatment. The plaintiff had twice inspected the produce section near the grapes before falling, stating that she had not seen the grape either time. An employee had walked through the section approximately ten minutes prior to the accident and did not see the grape. A two-hour video from Wal-Mart’s surveillance cameras could not conclusively establish when the grape appeared in that spot. Following the accident the plaintiff sued Wal-Mart for negligence and Wal-Mart removed the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida based on diversity jurisdiction.

Following the district court’s granting of summary judgment, the plaintiff filed an appeal contending that when viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, the evidence on the record contains a genuine dispute of material fact over Wal-Mart’s constructive knowledge of the grape that caused her to fall. Under Florida law, a plaintiff must establish four elements to sustain a successful negligence claim: (1) “the defendant owed a ‘duty, or obligation, recognized by the law, requiring the [defendant] to conform to a certain standard of conduct, for the protection of others against unreasonable risks’”; (2) “the defendant failed to conform to that duty”; (3) there is “‘[a] reasonably close causal connection between the [nonconforming] conduct and the resulting injury’ to the claimant”; and (4) “some actual harm.”

Plaintiffs who make a premises liability or other personal injury claim in Florida are often required to testify at the trial. A victim’s testimony can be used to describe how an injury occurred or to explain the effects that an injury has had on their quality of life. In cases of injuries with no eyewitnesses, surveillance footage, or other documentary evidence of a plaintiff’s injury, the plaintiff’s testimony can be the most crucial evidence in the case. Because a jury often decides cases based on the credibility and trustworthiness of a witness, defendants will often try to smear a plaintiff’s credibility so that a jury will not believe the testimony. The Florida Court of Appeal recently affirmed a trial judge’s ruling, which allowed the defendant’s counsel to attack the credibility of a personal injury plaintiff during cross-examination.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case was allegedly injured in a slip and fall incident at the defendant’s retail store. According to the facts discussed in the judicial opinion, the alleged slip-and-fall was not caught on camera, and the plaintiff’s credibility was a central feature of the trial. Before trial, the defense had asked the plaintiff’s attorney to furnish income and other financial information as part of the discovery process. The plaintiff’s attorney refused the request, responding that the requested information was not relevant to the plaintiff’s claims.

At trial, the plaintiff testified about what happened on the day of the incident. Defense counsel cross-examined the plaintiff, bringing up that their attorney refused to supply the requested income information. The questions were permitted despite the plaintiff’s objection that the questioning was irrelevant and damaged the plaintiff’s credibility. After the trial, the jury came back with a verdict in favor of the defendant.

In a recent case, the Second District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a dispute between a patron, Marvel Martin, and a restaurant, Columbia Food Service. Mrs. Martin tripped on a hexagonal piece of pavement immediately outside of the restaurant doors and contends that Columbia Restaurant was responsible for maintaining the sidewalk. Specifically, Mrs. Martin contends that Columbia had joint and shared responsibility with the City of Tampa for the pavers located around the Restaurant. Stating that Columbia Restaurant had actual possession and control of the sidewalk and therefore assumed the duty to keep it free from dangerous conditions. They further state that Columbia Restaurant’s duty extends beyond the confines of the Restaurant because it invited customers to use that sidewalk for entrance and exit to the location.

On May 21, 2017, Mrs. Martin was having lunch with her sister at the Columbia Restaurant. As she was leaving, she tripped on an uneven hexagonal paver located directly beneath the awning that the Columbia Restaurant owns and maintains. The awning is attached to the Restaurant and is supported by pillars affixed above the sidewalk. The City of Tampa permits Columbia Restaurant to erect the awning, but the agreement makes no mention of the sidewalk. Columbia Restaurant has porters check the sidewalk for debris each morning, and each week, the porters power-wash the sidewalk and parking lot. Based on these facts, the trial court granted summary judgment in Columbia Restaurant’s favor.

Mrs. Martin appeals, stating that Columbia Restaurant has joint and shared responsibility with the City of Tampa for maintaining the sidewalk and that the Restaurant has actual possession and control of the sidewalk, making it their responsibility to keep it free of dangerous conditions. Additionally, Mrs. Martin contends that it is Columbia Restaurant’s duty extends beyond the confines of the Restaurant as it invites customers to use the sidewalk for ingress and egress.

The Supreme Court of Florida recently approved the district court’s decision in a negligence case related to a slip-and-fall. The plaintiff sought to recover past medical expenses due to the fall on the defendant’s property. A jury awarded the plaintiff $34,642 for past medical expenses. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court abused its discretion in prohibiting her from introducing evidence of the gross amount of her past medical expenses and limiting her to raising only the discounted amounts paid by Medicare.

In analyzing the case, the Court addressed the holding in Joerg v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 176 So. 3d 1247 (Fla. 2015). In that case, the Court concluded that future Medicare benefits are both uncertain and a liability due to the right of reimbursement that Medicare retains. The Court held that Joerg is not relevant because it set the scope of its holding to evidence concerning future Medicare benefits, which is not in dispute in the current case.

Recent case law from Florida highlights the issues many plaintiffs encounter when trying to recover maximum compensation for their injuries. Generally, Florida’s collateral source rule hinders juries from hearing evidence of a party’s payments from third-party payers. However, a narrow exception carved out in Florida Physician’s Insurance Reciprocal v. Stanley caused significant confusion amongst courts. Further, in Joerg v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the Court reasoned that where Medicare benefits subjects beneficiaries to CMS’ enforcement tools, including demands for reimbursement, receiving Medicare constitutes a “serious liability.” The Florida Supreme Court also noted that Medicare benefits are too speculative to serve as a basis to reduce a claimant’s future medical damages.

Slip-and-falls and trip–and-falls are common occurrences on cruise ships and cause hundreds of injuries every year. Floridians who slip and fall or suffer another injury upon a cruise ship may bring a negligence or wrongful death claim against the responsible party. While these cases seem straightforward, they are rarely cut-and-dry, and injury victims must meet strict evidentiary and procedural requirements.

Recently, the Eleventh Circuit addressed an appeal from a Florida district court stemming from injuries a cruise ship passenger suffered after slipping on a puddle of water. According to the record, the woman slipped on a puddle and broke her hip shortly after boarding the cruise ship. She filed a complaint against the cruise ship for negligence, and the district court found in favor of the cruise ship. The lower court found that the cruise ship lacked a duty to protect the woman because its crewmembers did not have actual or constructive notice of the puddle that caused her fall.

Generally, in Florida, maritime law governs the liability of a cruise ship for a passenger’s slip-and-fall. In these cases, the plaintiff must make four primary showings to prevail:

Florida is an international hub for some of the world’s most well-known amusement parks. While various governmental entities issue guidance and regulations regarding amusement park safety, many rides pose inherent risks. Although most amusement park-goers sign release of liability waivers in the event of an accident or injury, these waivers are not iron-clad. In some instances, injury victims may still pursue claims against a negligent amusement park.

Recently, a 14-year-old boy fell to his death at Florida’s ICON Park. The teenager fell from a FreeFall drop tower ride, which transports riders up and then drops them about 400 feet at speeds exceeding 75 mph. According to authorities, the 14-year-old weighed more than 300 pounds and stood nearly 6-feet, 5-inches tall. The ride’s operations manual states that the maximum passenger weight is about 287 pounds. The manual further states that ride operators should use care when seating large guests. Operators should confirm that the passenger fits within the contours of the seat and brackets. In this case, the employee operating the ride at the time of the incident completed training at the end of February.

Moreover, safety officials visually inspected the ride in a “non-destructive test.” Reports indicate the ride met Florida’s qualifications. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is working with the sheriff’s office to investigate the incident and make changes to protect amusement park patrons.

Recently, an appeals court issued an opinion stemming from a woman’s injuries after falling in a Florida restaurant parking lot. According to the record, the woman and her then-boyfriend were meeting another couple at another restaurant in Naples. The man dropped the woman off in front of the restaurant while looking for parking. As the woman was looking toward the restaurants in the area, she tripped and fell to the ground. The victim could not specify what caused her fall, but it occurred around the pavers in front of the restaurant.

The woman filed lawsuits against the City and restaurant, adding that the restaurant negligently or incorrectly stalled the pavers, making them dangerous. The restaurant moved for summary judgment, asserting several defenses. The lower court ruled in favor of the restaurant’s motion to dismiss, and the woman appealed. On appeal, she argued that the restaurant failed to establish that they did not maintain a duty to the woman. In response, the restaurant claimed that it did not have a duty to maintain the public sidewalk and that it was the City’s responsibility.

In Florida premises liability cases, the inquiry into a defendant’s duty of care is not dependent upon ownership, instead of whether the party has control over the premises. The law requires those who have control over premises to keep the premises safe and in repair. Further, in cases where two entities share control of premises, the law imposes the duty of care upon both of them.

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