The existence of a building code violation may be used as evidence of negligence in some Florida premises liability cases. Evidence of a violation may constitute negligence per se, where a defendant’s conduct may be automatically considered negligent. However, the Florida Supreme Court has stated that not all violations of statutes will be regarded as negligence per se. Florida’s Supreme Court has divided violations of laws into three types. First, there is a violation of a strict liability statute that is intended to protect certain people who cannot protect themselves, which constitutes negligence per se. Second, there is a violation of a statute that establishes a duty to take measures to protect specific persons from certain injuries, which also constitutes negligence per se. Third, there is a violation of any other kind of statute, which only constitutes prima facie evidence of negligence.
Florida courts have stated that building code violations are not typically strict liability violations, and are not intended to protect specific persons, but rather the public in general. Therefore, they usually fall into the third category of only prima facie evidence of negligence. But Florida courts have decided that a jury can consider building code violations in determining whether a defendant met the standard of care in a negligence case.
A state appellate court recently issued an opinion in a negligence claim in which there was evidence of several building code violations. The court considered whether the defendant could be held liable, particularly in light of the violations. In that case, the plaintiff tripped on a step in the defendants’ garage. Under the Uniform Building Code, there were seven violations of its provisions concerning the steps. The violations included that the landing was more than seven and a half inches below floor level, the step rise was more than eight inches, and the variation between the largest and smallest rise was more than one-fourth inch.