Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

There are various procedural and evidentiary rules and regulations that Florida car accident victims must follow if they want to collect damages from an at-fault party. Before a court accepts a personal injury lawsuit, it will determine whether the claim falls within the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the amount of time that a person has to bring a legal cause of action against another party or entity. This is arguably the most critical step of a personal injury lawsuit, because an otherwise meritorious claim may face dismissal if the statute of limitations has expired.

Generally, the statute of limitations begins to run from either the date of the incident or the date the injury was discovered (or should have been discovered). There are certain exceptions to the statute of limitations or arguments that a party can make to argue that the statute does not yet bar their claim. Florida courts understand that there are circumstances that may hinder a plaintiff’s ability to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations. For example, historically, Florida courts have permitted plaintiffs to file a lawsuit past the statute of limitations if the plaintiff was deemed incompetent for some time, if they were a minor, or if the defendant fled the state. However, absent a unique and unusual circumstance, the courts will dismiss a claim that is past the statute of limitations.

In some instances, a defendant may claim that the parties agreed to shorten or lengthen the statute of limitations. For example, a state appellate court recently issued an opinion addressing the validity of a contractual agreement that reduced the statute of limitations. In that premises liability claim between a tenant and landlord, the landlord argued that the parties agreed that any legal claim against the landlord must be filed within one year of the incident. The landlord moved to dismiss the case because the complaint was filed two years after the woman suffered injuries. In that state, claims of this sort generally must be commenced within two years of the injury, but parties can agree to modify the statute of limitations.

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.

Florida personal injury cases can be complex, particularly when it comes to proving damages in cases where bills were already paid through another source. In a recent case before a state supreme court, the court considered whether to admit evidence of the original medical bill amount versus the amount actually paid for the services rendered.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she slipped and fell on ice at a hotel parking lot. She fractured her wrist and her leg and had to undergo surgery. The hospital billed her more than $135,000, but her medical expenses were paid by Medicare. Medicare paid the providers’ bills by paying around $24,000, at a rate of less than one-fifth of the amount the plaintiff was billed. The plaintiff later sued the hotel for negligence. The hotel argued that the plaintiff could not show her original medical bills as evidence of her damages, and argued that only the amount that Medicaid paid could be admitted as evidence.

The issues before the Alaska Supreme Court were whether the evidence should be limited to the amount paid or whether the amount billed was relevant in assessing the plaintiff’s damages, and whether the difference in amounts was a benefit from a collateral source. The court decided that the original amount billed was relevant as evidence of the value of the medical services. The court considered different approaches and decided that evidence of the amount billed was relevant.

Florida premises liability laws require all landowners take certain precautions to ensure that their property is safe. The extent of a landowner’s duty significantly depends on the relationship between the landowner and their guest. Guests who are on a landowner’s property for business reasons are referred to as invitees, and enjoy the highest duty of care. Restaurant patrons fit within this category.

Among the issues that come up in South Florida slip and fall cases is that of the plaintiff’s knowledge of the hazard that caused their fall. Defendants often argue that plaintiffs should not be allowed to hold them responsible for risks that the plaintiff should have been able to avoid. Thus, a plaintiff may have a difficult time recovering for their injuries if the defendant can show that the hazard was “open and obvious.” A recent case illustrates this concept.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff visited the defendant restaurant for lunch with a friend. Upon arriving, the plaintiff ascended a set of concrete stairs which contained several small landings. There were handrails along each of the stairs, but not along each of the landings. The plaintiff made it up the stairs without issue. However, after lunch, the plaintiff tripped and fell on the last step. Apparently, the plaintiff thought he was at the bottom of the stairs when, in reality, there was one more step. The plaintiff tripped and was seriously injured.

Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida personal injury case involving the state’s statute of repose for claims related to the “design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property.” Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim fit within the statute’s reach, and was no longer viable under the applicable statute of repose.

Statutes of repose are similar to statutes of limitations in that they limit the time a plaintiff has to file a claim. However, unlike a statute of limitations, a statute of repose is not subject to tolling or extensions. Thus, a statute of repose can bar a plaintiff’s claim even if the plaintiff does not know of the alleged defect until after the statute has expired.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff purchased a home from the defendant home builder on May 7, 2004. On June 6, 2012, the plaintiff was climbing into the attic to repair a leak when the attic stairs collapsed. The plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against the home builder, claiming that it was negligent for “failing to ensure that the attic ladder was installed in a secure manner” and “failing to verify that the ladder was secure before selling the home.”

As a general rule, Florida landowners must take steps to make sure that their property is safe for the visitors whom they allow onto their land. For the most part, this includes publicly- and privately-owned land. However, under the Florida recreational use statute, there is an exception that allows for landowners to evade responsibility in certain situations.

Under Florida’s recreational use statute, anyone who allows the public to use their property for recreational purposes, without charging a fee, cannot be held liable for injuries occurring on their property. The statute applies to a variety of activities, including hunting, fishing, camping, wildlife viewing, swimming, boating, picnicking, and water skiing. A recent state appellate decision raises a commonly encountered issue in cases that implicate the recreational use statute.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her boyfriend were camping at a state park. Evidently, once the two parked, there were two ways to access the campground from the parking lot; a stone staircase and an ADA-approved wheelchair ramp. The plaintiff and her boyfriend used the stairs on the way down without incident.

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a case discussing a crucial issue that arises in many Florida personal injury cases. The case required the court to determine if the defendant insurance company could be named as a responsible party.

The facts of the case are not complicated, but the relationships between the parties are a little confusing. According to the court’s opinion, a girl was visiting a resort while at a Bible camp. The church leased several conference rooms from the resort. The resort had various other amenities, including a zip-line. The lease between the church and the resort did not mention the zip-line.

The young girl and a few friends decided to go zip-lining during some downtime. The girls had to sign release waivers and pay an additional fee. Unfortunately, while the girl was on the course, a resort employee forgot to clip the girl’s carabiner to the line, and she fell 50 feet. The girl and her family filed a personal injury case against the resort.

In June 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability case requiring the court determine if a property management company overseeing an apartment complex could be liable for a resident’s injuries. Ultimately, the court concluded that the agreement between the property management company and the owner of the complex may have placed a duty on the property management company to fix the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Thus, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision to grant the management company’s motion for summary judgment.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff had lived at the apartment complex for about 11 months. Typically, the plaintiff would drive to go get her mail from a kiosk located at the front of the complex. However, one day, she decided to walk. On her way, the plaintiff tripped and fell as she was walking down a sloped portion of the sidewalk that was designated for wheelchairs.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against several parties, including the property management company. Evidently, the property management company had entered into a contract with the owner of the complex whereby the company would advertise vacancies, collect rent, and maintain the property. Specifically, the agreement allowed the company to use its discretion when conducting repairs costing less than $2,000, but required owner approval for the more expensive maintenance unless “emergency action is necessary.” It was established that repairing the sidewalk would have cost more than $2,000. Both the property management company as the complex owner knew that the sloped walkway was not in compliance with city code.

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.

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida slip-and-fall case in which the court discussed the difference between a plaintiff’s claim that the defendant landowner failed to maintain their property and a claim that a landowner failed to warn visitors about a known hazard. The case arose after the plaintiff slipped and fell on a portion of damaged sidewalk in the condominium complex where she lived.

Evidently, the plaintiff had lived in the complex for the past decade, and was familiar with the area where she fell. In fact, according to the court’s opinion, she regularly traversed the area without a problem. After her fall, the plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the complex, making two claims. First, the plaintiff asserted that the complex was negligent in failing to warn her of a known danger. Second, the plaintiff claimed that the complex was negligent for failing to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition.

The complex’s main defense was that the plaintiff knew of the hazard, and that it was open and obvious. The complex argued that these facts should negate any potential liability and that the court should dismiss the case against it. The lower court agreed, finding that the hazard was open and obvious, and holding that the plaintiff assumed any risk of injury by crossing the area she knew to be hazardous.

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