Florida Appeals Court Affirms Lower Court Decision in Premise Liability Case, Denying Directed Verdict Claim

In a recent case, the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida Fifth District issued an opinion in an appeal in a slip and fall case between Dollar General, the defendant, and Kimberly Doty, the plaintiff and customer of the store. The suit resulted from an incident where the plaintiff slipped and fell as she entered the Dollar General store.

On July 3, 2017, a Dollar General store in Port Orange displayed seasonal merchandise in two “U-boats”—carts shaped like hotel baggage carriers—outside the store’s entrance. When it started raining that afternoon, Dollar General employee Barbara Ralph moved the U-boats indoors and placed a wet floor sign nearby. When the rain stopped, Dollar General employee Robert Boarder put the U-boats back outside and moved the wet floor sign. Moments later, Kimberly Doty entered the store. She made it a few steps inside before she slipped and fell. She later sued Dollar General for negligence, alleging that “a puddle of water near the main entrance” caused her to fall.

At trial, Dollar General moved for a directed verdict, claiming there was no evidence that it knew about the water on the floor that Doty slipped on. The trial court denied the motion. The court suggested that Dollar General’s arguments were aimed at the weight rather than the sufficiency of the evidence presented and reasoned that it is the role of the jury to weigh the incident report collectively with all the other case evidence. Ultimately, the jury found Dollar General liable for Doty’s fall. Dollar General moved to set aside the verdict and enter judgment for Dollar General, claiming again that there was no evidence showing that it knew about the water on the floor. The trial court denied the motion, and Dollar General appealed, again maintaining the evidence warranted a directed defense verdict.

The appellate court agreed with the trial court. The appellate decision stated that based on the evidence before it, a jury could have reasonably concluded that Dollar General employees knew of or created the dangerous condition that caused Doty’s accident. Therefore, the trial court was correct to deny Dollar General’s motion for a directed verdict.

While the open and obvious doctrine can prevent plaintiffs from successfully holding landowners fully accountable for injuries in Florida, there are other ways to make sure injured parties are properly compensated. Florida landowners are still required to maintain their land and the premises in a safe condition. The courts of Florida have ruled that landowners can still be at fault for failing to maintain safe premises, even if an obvious or open danger means they do not need to warn others. Specifically, even in circumstances that are open or obvious, property owners should anticipate that people on the property will encounter the hazard, and subsequently can be found negligent for failing to maintain the premises safely. In such a situation, the plaintiff may be found to have contributed to their own injury, but the landowner can still be apportioned blame.

Florida landowning defendants will often try to use the open and obvious defense to protect against their actual negligence when it comes to injuries on their property. Plaintiffs should consult an experienced injury attorney to address these common defenses to make sure they receive the best possible award to recover from their injuries.

Have You Suffered Injuries in Florida?

If you or someone you love has suffered from an injury in Florida, the lawyers at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada can help you understand your rights and the remedies available to you under Florida law. Our team of attorneys has successfully advocated for injured individuals throughout Florida for 46 years. Expenses from injuries can quickly become overwhelming, and having an experienced roster of attorneys by your side can make a world of difference for your claim. Make sure that you make the most out of your claim and get the award that you deserve. Contact our team at 305-448-8585 to schedule a free and no-obligation initial consultation with a lawyer at our office.

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