Court Reverses Jury’s Verdict Based on Lack of Evidence Showing the Defendant Knew about Hazard that Caused Plaintiff’s Fall

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability lawsuit requiring the court to determine if the lower court was proper to deny the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment because the plaintiff failed to provide any evidence showing the defendant knew about the hazard that caused her fall.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a patron at a BBQ stand that was located on property owned by a sports club. After dining, the plaintiff slipped and fell on a public sidewalk near the stand. She sustained serious injuries in the fall and filed a premises liability case against both the sports club as well as the county that maintained the sidewalk.

The plaintiff claimed that the sports club was negligent in failing to clean a grease trap, resulting in grease spilling onto the sidewalk. The plaintiff claimed that the county was negligent in failing to clean up the grease on the public sidewalk. The case went to trial, and a jury determined that the sports club and the county were each 50% liable for the plaintiff’s injuries and that the plaintiff was 0% at fault.

The county filed a post-trial motion, arguing that the jury’s verdict should be reversed because there was no evidence that the county had knowledge of the grease on the sidewalk. The court denied the county’s motion, and the county appealed.

On Appeal, the Case Is Reversed

On appeal, the county argued that the plaintiff presented no evidence suggesting that the county knew of the hazard. The court agreed. First, the court noted that a plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant in a premises liability lawsuit had either actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard. The court explained that in the absence of actual knowledge, constructive knowledge can be inferred either from the amount of time the hazard was present or from the fact that the hazard has occurred with such frequency that the landowner should have known about its existence.

The plaintiff acknowledged that the grease looked “fresh” at the time of her fall. However, she submitted photographs of the area showing that there was discoloration where the grease was, and she argued that this showed that grease was frequently present on the sidewalk. The plaintiff argued that the grease had likely caused the discoloration, it was fair to infer that grease frequently spilled onto the sidewalk, and the county should have been aware of the hazard.

The court, however, disagreed, explaining that there was no evidence showing what caused the discoloration on the sidewalk. As a result, the court reversed the jury’s verdict as it related to the county.

Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a South Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida premises liability lawsuit. The skilled South Florida personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience representing victims in a wide range of cases, including slip-and-fall cases. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Florida’s Recreational Use Statute, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 27, 2017.

Court Upholds Arbitration Agreement in Recent Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuit, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published November 13, 2017.

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