Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

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.

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.

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