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Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

To prevent injuries on their land, landowners must inform guests of any hidden dangers they might encounter. However, property owners will often try to escape liability by claiming the danger is open and obvious and, thus, they do not need to warn others about the hazard. The open and obvious doctrine provides that if a dangerous condition is so obvious and apparent to a reasonable person, the owner does not need to tell guests about the danger and is not liable if a person is injured after failing to notice the hazard.

A recent state supreme court case discussed whether a church was negligent after the plaintiff was seriously injured after tripping on the top step of the stairs. The plaintiff, despite previously using the steps a few minutes before, fell while carrying a casket out of the church. The plaintiff brought a premises liability lawsuit against the landowner, alleging the dangerous condition of the property caused his injury.

However, the defendant asserted that the condition of the top step was an open and obvious condition, meaning the church was not liable under a premises liability theory. The court relied on the specific facts of the case to make its determination: the top step was composed of a different material than the other steps, and the top step was an extra four inches higher than the others. Ultimately, the court concluded that because the top step’s look was different from the others, and the plaintiff had already used the steps before, the danger was open and obvious. Therefore the defendant was not liable for failing to warn the plaintiff.

Everyone who gets on a cruise is hoping for a relaxing, fun-filled, and sunny vacation. However, accidents can happen during these trips, and cruise ships have a responsibility to keep their patrons safe during their stay. Incidents that occur as a result of the negligence of the ship or cruise company should never ruin a holiday, and those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.

In a recent federal appellate case, a three-year-old child was on a cruise with her family. While on an upper deck, the child climbed onto and fell from a guard rail onto the deck below, suffering serious head injuries. Although there were conflicting reports of how the accident occurred, the toddler allegedly placed her hands on the second course of the rail to sit on the lower course but lost her grip and slid through the gap. The child’s mother sued the cruise line on behalf of her daughter, arguing that the cruise line was negligent in the creation and maintenance of the guard rail and failed to warn of the danger posed. The district court ruled in favor of the cruise line, holding that there was no dispute of material fact, and that the ship did not owe a duty to the plaintiff. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the circuit court reversed the lower court’s decision and sided with the plaintiff. The plaintiff argued that the guard rail posed a risk of injury to children, specifically because children were small enough to pass through the rails and fall to a lower deck. The appellate court agreed and stated that the cruise line owed a duty to protect the child from this specific type of injury. Additionally, based on expert testimony and other evidence, the court held that it was clear the ship had notice of the potential danger of the guard rail and had failed to act to cure the safety concern. Because the court found there was a genuine dispute of material fact present, the court remanded the case for further consideration.

In a recent ruling, a Florida court upheld a verdict in favor of a man who was injured when he slipped and fell in his shower. The plaintiff’s claim was based on the landlord’s failure to properly fix the shower drain. Evidently, the defendant landlord had been notified about the issue on multiple occasions, but maintenance workers were unable to fix the problem. One day, the plaintiff slipped in the shower and landed on a ceramic soap tray. His injury required 30 stitches, and continuous therapy. The man later sued his landlord claiming that his injury was the result of the landlord’s negligence.

Florida law states that residential landlords have a general duty to repair dangerous, defective conditions when the landlord becomes aware of their existence. If the landlord fails to correct a known hazard, they may be held liable for injuries that occur as a result of the dangerous or defective condition. In this appeal, the defendant landlord asked the court to reverse the trial court’s decision in favor of the plaintiff. However, the court refused to disturb the trial court’s decision because it found enough evidence to support the verdict.

The key issue here was proximate cause. Proximate cause is the legal concept used to determine whether a harm caused to the plaintiff was the reasonably foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions. In order to find that a defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of an injury, the judge or jury must conclude that the injury was a natural and ordinary consequence of the defendant’s negligence. Therefore, a plaintiff must present facts that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that their injury was the foreseeable result of the defendant’s wrongful actions in order to successfully recover on a negligence claim.

In a recent case before a Florida appeals court, the court considered whether there was sufficient evidence the business had constructive notice of water on the floor in a Florida slip and fall case. In that case, the plaintiff fell when he was at a plasma donation center. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff went to donate plasma, and after he arrived, he completed paperwork and sat down in the waiting room. After about 45 minutes had passed, the plaintiff went to the men’s bathroom. He took a couple of steps inside and fell, suffering injuries that included a broken orbital bone.

The plaintiff filed a negligence claim against the center. He alleged that when he fell, he slipped and was pushed forward onto the floor. He testified that he saw about a cup of dirty water on the floor, a couple of muddy footprints, and a skid mark. He testified that some of the liquid got onto the side of his shirt. He said it appeared that somebody had slipped previously, and that there were at least two footprints that looked “like muddy footprints.” A medical supervisor at the facility wrote up an incident report that day, indicating that he checked the bathroom floor for liquid and did not find any. Still, it was not clear at what time he wrote the report, and the supervisor did not remember what he did when he entered the bathroom to investigate. According to the evidence, it was also possible that a janitor had already come and cleaned the bathroom.

Under Florida law, a business owner has a duty to invitees to take reasonable care to keep its premises reasonably safe, to warn of dangers it knew of or should have known of and which the invitee could not discover. Under section 768.0755 of Florida Statutes, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the foreign substance. Under that statute, a plaintiff must prove that the business had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have “taken action to remedy it.” The statute provides that constructive knowledge can be proven by showing that the condition existed for a length of time that the business should have known about the condition if it had exercised ordinary care, or the condition was foreseeable because it occurred regularly.

Recently, an appellate court issued a written opinion addressing when and to what extent joint and several liabilities apply in Florida premises liability lawsuits. The case stems from an incident that occurred when a woman was attending a party at her friends’ condominium beach club. At the time of the party, the Beach Club’s boat dock was undergoing maintenance and repairs, however, work on the portion right behind the woman’s friends’ condos was halted because of a contract dispute between the Beach Club and the construction company. While walking on the unfinished portion of the boat dock, the woman fell into a hole and suffered serious injuries.

The woman filed a negligence lawsuit against the Beach Club, the construction company, and her friends. The plaintiff claimed the Beach Club breached its non-delegable duty to maintain the dock, the construction company failed to repair and replace the dock reasonably, and her friends violated their responsibility to keep their common areas safe and warn her of any hazardous conditions.

At trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and apportioned damages amongst the parties, finding that Beach Club was 15% responsible, the construction company was 25%, the friends were 50%, and the plaintiff was 10%. Post-trial, the plaintiff asked the court to find that Beach Club and the construction company were jointly and severally liable for 90% of the damages. One of the main issues on appeal was whether Beach Club could be responsible for more than its proportionate share of the damages. On appeal, Beach Club argued that under Florida law, they could not be liable for more than their share of damages because the woman’s friends failed to warn the plaintiff.

Late last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida premises liability case involving a woman who slipped and fell while at her local grocery store. The case required the court to determine if an affidavit of the plaintiff’s sister was properly excluded from consideration by the trial court before it granted the store’s motion for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the sister’s affidavit should have been considered, and thus, summary judgment was inappropriate.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her sister were shopping at the defendant grocery store when the plaintiff slipped and fell after stepping in a puddle of water. The plaintiff filed a Florida slip and fall lawsuit against the store, and presented an affidavit from her sister in support of her claim. In the affidavit, the sister explained that the puddle was right next to a large cooler, was oblong in shape, and looked to have been stepped in by other people.

The grocery store asked the court not to consider the sister’s affidavit because it “baldly repudiated” the testimony that she gave at a prior deposition. At the deposition, however, the sister was only asked two questions, including the origin of the puddle and whether it consisted of a transparent liquid. Neither counsel asked the sister about the shape of the puddle.

When a guest is injured while on another’s property, they may pursue a claim against the property owner. To succeed in a Florida slip and fall lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to show, among other things, that the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition.

A property owner’s knowledge of a hazard can be proven through actual knowledge or constructive knowledge. Of course, proving actual knowledge can be difficult. Thus, many cases rely on proving a landowner’s constructive knowledge of a hazard. Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida premises liability case discussing constructive knowledge.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was shopping at the defendant grocery store when she slipped and fell. The plaintiff testified that she did not see anything on the floor before she fell. However, when she stood up, she saw a “clear, dirty liquid” that was later identified as a smashed grape. Two witnesses were nearby, and neither saw the fall, but both saw the substance on the floor. Neither saw footprints or cart track marks through the substance.

Playground accidents can occur on Florida school property during school hours or at city and county parks. Some accidents are the result of child’s play and may not result in serious injuries. However, other preventable accidents are the result of someone’s negligence. In many instances, a child’s injuries are the result of defective equipment or negligent supervision. Florida children who have suffered playground injuries because of another person or entity’s negligence should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

Typical defendants in Florida playground accidents are playground equipment manufacturers or retailers, school employees, or the city or county responsible for maintaining the playground. These cases entail many challenges because plaintiffs must comply with strict filing notices and deadlines. Requirements vary depending on the nature of the accident, type of lawsuit, and defendant.

Playground accidents, specifically those that occur on school grounds, are not always related to defective equipment, but may involve instances of altercations between students. For example, in a recent opinion, a state appellate court addressed evidentiary burdens in a lawsuit involving a physical altercation on a school playground. In that case, the child suffered injuries when other students attacked her during recess. The family filed a lawsuit alleging that the child’s injuries were a result of the school’s negligence and carelessness because of the school’s failure to supervise children on the playground adequately.

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.

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