The ultimate question in Florida premises liability lawsuits is whether the defendant landowner was negligent in the maintenance of their property. In order to determine if a landowner is legally negligent, courts consider a variety of factors, including the relationship between the parties, the level of duty the defendant owed to the plaintiff, the type of hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injuries, whether the defendant knew or should have known about the hazard, and whether the hazard was obvious to the plaintiff.
Each of these factors can come into play when a court is determining if the defendant landowner was negligent. In Florida, even if a plaintiff shares in the fault, the case will proceed to trial so long as the evidence suggests that defendant was also negligent.
That being said, plaintiffs have the burden to establish that their case is sufficient as a matter of law before the case is sent to a jury for resolution. In order to meet this burden, a plaintiff must present evidence of each element of their claim. If a plaintiff cannot prevail at a trial based on a lack of evidence regarding a required element, then the court will dismiss the plaintiff’s case. A recent case illustrates one plaintiff’s unsuccessful attempt to establish her case against a fast-food restaurant.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was leaving a fast-food restaurant and walking back to her car when she tripped and fell on a low cement barrier used to prevent cars from parking too far into the drive-thru lane. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the restaurant, claiming that it was negligent in maintaining a safe parking lot for customers.
The restaurant’s initial response was that the plaintiff was negligent in failing to take notice of the cement barrier, which are very common in parking lots. The plaintiff answered that she was distracted by a car in the drive-thru lane, and that prevented her from taking note of the barrier.
The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the plaintiff’s distraction excused her failure to notify the barrier. The court explained that, as a preliminary matter, the plaintiff must prove that the barrier constituted a “hazard.” However, here, the court held, the plaintiff failed to do so. The court explained that the cement barrier was a common fixture in all parking lots, and that, even if the plaintiff had been distracted, she would have been unsuccessful based on the fact that the barrier, legally speaking, did not constitute a “hazard.” The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the manner in which the barrier blended in with the painted pavement rendered it a hazard, although it otherwise would not have been one.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated South Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank have decades of experience assisting injury victims and their families navigate the court system in pursuit of fair compensation for the injuries they have sustained. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney at Friedman Rodman & Frank.
More Blog Posts:
Court Discusses “Coming-and-Going” Rule as It Pertains to Employer Liability, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 19, 2018.
Court Limits Employer’s Duty in Recent Case Stemming from Pedestrian-Railroad Fatality, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 5, 2018.