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Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

When most people visit a hotel, their main goal is to relax and unwind. They do not expect to be injured simply by walking about in their room. But unfortunately, hotels are one of the most common locations of Florida slip-and-fall accidents.

Of course, when hotels are sued, they come to court armed with a large corporate legal team. This reality can turn slip-and-fall cases into an uphill climb for injured guests. Working with a law firm with a proven track record in slip-and-fall cases can help increase the odds of winning your case.

A recent court decision demonstrated just how difficult it can be to win these cases in Florida.

Vicarious liability, or liability imputed to another party based on its relationship to the wrongful actor, can provide another avenue for a Florida injury victim to seek compensation. A recent decision from a federal appeals court illustrated an important difference between claims based on direct liability versus vicarious liability.

In the decision, issued by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in an appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the court described the facts giving rise to the case, which took place on a cruise ship. During a ten-day cruise, a passenger fell during a dance competition on the cruise ship. The passenger claimed that her partner in the dance competition, who was a cruise ship employee, released her hands as she leaned away while doing a dance move. She claimed that as a result, she fell backward and hit her head on the deck. She was later diagnosed with traumatic brain injury because of the fall. The passenger sued the ship’s owner for negligence, alleging in part that the employee failed to act in a way that would keep the passenger safe. A federal district court originally found that the shipowner was not liable to the passenger because it did not show that the owner had notice of the employee’s allegedly negligent dancing before her injury.

However, the appeals court held that under maritime negligence law, in a claim of negligence based on vicarious liability (as opposed to direct liability), the shipowner is liable for an employee’s negligence even if the owner is not directly liable for anything that it did or did not do. The court explained that when a shipowner is alleged to be directly liable for a passenger’s injuries, such as negligently failing to properly maintain its premises, the shipowner had to have notice of the risk-creating condition. In contrast, in a negligence claim based on vicarious liability, the plaintiff does not need to prove the shipowner had notice.

Every year, many families travel to tropical destinations aboard cruise ships for the vacation of a lifetime. With so much to do and so many opportunities to relax, a cruise sounds like the perfect option for any adventurous traveler. However, accidents can occur while on these trips. When they do,  those who are responsible can be held accountable through a Florida cruise ship injury lawsuit.

In a recent federal appellate opinion, a plaintiff suffered a severe injury while on a cruise ship vacation with her family. According to the court’s opinion, on the fourth day of the trip, the plaintiff went to pick up food from the ship’s breakfast buffet. As she was returning from the buffet line, she was forced to take a detour because diners at a nearby table had rearranged their chairs. While moving around a busboy station, the plaintiff tripped over a cleaning bucket that she had not seen, suffering injuries to her shoulder and fracturing her arm. For the remainder of the cruise trip, the plaintiff was bedridden. Following the trip, she sought medical attention from various doctors and physical therapists due to her injuries. The plaintiff subsequently brought a lawsuit against the operator of the cruise ship.

At trial, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff with $650,000 in past general damages, $500,000 in future general damages, and $61,000 in past medical expenses, all to be discounted by 10% due to the plaintiff’s comparative negligence. The total award amounted to roughly $1.1 million in favor of the plaintiff. Following the verdict and damages calculations, the defendant persuaded the lower court to reduce the jury’s award to approximately $16,000, on the theory that a plaintiff’s recovery was limited to the amount that was actually paid for her medical treatment.

Florida premises liability lawsuits often involve a slip and fall or trip and fall. These accidents can occur at businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, nursing homes, and public buildings. Generally, under state law, business owners and land occupiers owe invitees a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. Despite the law, property owners often fail to maintain their property safely and often delay making repairs or address hazards.

On the other hand, in some instances, a business owner may believe their property is safe. In these cases, the trier of fact will determine whether the property is safe under a “reasonable person” standard. In other words, the court will ask whether another similarly situated entity would act similarly or evaluate the danger in the same way. Moreover, some business owners may argue that the danger was “open and obvious.” When this occurs, the court will determine whether the condition was so open and obvious that it serves as a warning to the invitee to protect themselves from its dangers.

For example, in a recent opinion, a Florida court addressed whether a groove in the pavement in an ice cream store’s parking lot was an open and obvious hazard. In that case, a woman was navigating a parking lot to get to the ice cream shop when she tripped and fell into a groove in the pavement. The woman initiated a lawsuit against the parking lot owner, alleging that her injuries arose because of its negligence. At trial, the defendant argued that the depression in the pavement was so open and obvious that the woman should have realized its dangers and taken steps to avoid hurting herself.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion addressing, amongst other issues, whether negligence per se applied in the plaintiff’s lawsuit arising after an elevator accident. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the owner of a two-story building after suffering injuries when stepping onto an elevator in the building. Evidently, the elevator door opened while the elevator was still several inches below the door’s entrance, causing the plaintiff to fall into the elevator. The lawsuit alleged negligence, negligence per, and res ipsa loquitor. The defendant argued that they were not negligent, the plaintiff was comparatively negligent, and the incident was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed, arguing that the ruling was improper because there was a genuine issue of material fact. One of the primary issues on appeal was whether the building’s owner was liable under negligence per se.

Negligence per se is a legal theory that places liability on a defendant based on their violation of a statute. The theory applies in situations where the defendant engaged in conduct that violated a statute designed to protect against the type of injury the victim suffered. Historically, negligence per se decisions stem from the violation of a statute designed to protect a specific class of people, a violation of a penal statute, or a violation of statutes designed to protect the public.

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.

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