Florida Appeals Court Finds Against Plaintiff in Liability Case, Affirming Trial Court

In a recent case, the District Court of Appeals of the State of Florida First District issued an opinion in an appeal involving a duty to warn or duty of reasonable care liability action between a plaintiff who was a visitor in a hospital, and the defendant, the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH). The suit resulted from an incident where the plaintiff slipped on some liquid as she exited an elevator on the ground floor and sustained injuries that required her to be hospitalized.

The trial court found in favor of the defendant, granting summary judgment and finding that the plaintiff failed to show that a TMH employee knew that he was creating a dangerous condition. On appeal, the court held that there was no material fact dispute. As the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence the appellate court ruled that no reasonable jury could find for the plaintiff at trial and summary judgment for TMH was the correct ruling.

During the trial, the plaintiff advanced a theory that she slipped on water left in the elevator by a stretcher pushed out of the elevator by TMH employees immediately before she entered. The plaintiff’s complaint further contended that TMH negligently maintained its premises and allowed a dangerous condition to persist without warning her or taking steps to ameliorate the condition. She sought compensation for the damage she suffered from the slip-and-fall at TMH. The trial court found that the plaintiff failed to present substantive evidence from which a jury reasonably could infer that the TMH employees knew of the dripping water, or that the employees could have done anything to correct the unsafe conditions in the short time that passed between the stretcher coming off the elevator and her entering it. The trial court granted the defendant’s request for summary judgment and the plaintiff’s appeal followed.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that as agents of TMH, the employees were responsible for dripping water on the floor and must have known about the water. The appellate court found that the plaintiff left an evidentiary gap regarding knowledge of the water on the floor. The opinion stated that the evidence provided failed to prove that the TMH employees knew that they were dripping water on the floor, ultimately upholding the trial court decision for summary judgment.

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