Florida Appeals Court Overturns Summary Judgment in Air Show Negligence Case

In Slora v. Sun ‘N Fun Fly-In, Inc., a woman was injured when a tornado hit a security guard booth at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. At the time of the incident, the woman was employed by a security staffing agency that provided security services to an air show company whose operations were subject to the regulatory jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). Because of this, the company was required to file certain certificates of waiver with the FAA and agree to provide security and policing services in order to perform the show.

After the woman was injured, she collected workers’ compensation benefits from her employer. The worker then filed a negligence action against the air show operator in a Florida circuit court. According to her complaint, the severe weather that caused her injuries was foreseeable, the air show company failed to maintain the guard booth in a reasonably safe manner, and the business failed to warn her of the personal injury risks she faced in the event of severe weather.  As a result, the security guard asked the court to award her damages. In response, the air show company filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing the guard’s claims were barred by Section 440.10(1)(b) of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Law.

In general, a motion for summary judgment may be granted when no material facts are in dispute and one party to a lawsuit is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Although the security guard did not raise an issue of fact in her opposition to the company’s motion, she claimed the waivers that were filed with the FAA did not constitute an employment or other subcontract under Section 440.10(1)(b). The circuit court ruled that a contractual relationship existed and granted the air show company’s motion. The security guard then filed an appeal with Florida’s Second District.

On appeal, the court stated the Florida workers’ compensation law obligates employers to secure medical and disability benefits for employees who are hurt at work. In addition, the appeals court said this obligation extends to statutory employers as well as direct employers. In order to qualify as an employer under the law, however, a contractual obligation must exist.

The Second District next examined the contract offered by the air show company in support of its motion for summary judgment. According to the appellate court, the application and certificates of waiver appeared to be regulatory permits rather than bargained-for agreements entered into after an offer and acceptance. Since the air show company failed to demonstrate that a contract existed as a matter of law, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal reversed the lower court’s order granting summary judgment and remanded the negligence case for further proceedings.

If you were hurt in an accident at work or elsewhere in South Florida, you should contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to discuss your rights. To schedule a free confidential consultation with a hardworking Miami personal injury lawyer today, contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. through our website or give us a call at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Slora v. Sun ‘N Fun Fly-In, Inc., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 2nd Dist. 2015

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Tampa Court Refuses to Dismiss Insurer From Lawsuit Alleging Employer Committed an Intentional Tort Against Leased Worker, August 27, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Court Finds Employee is Not Entitled to Ongoing Workers’ Compensation Disability Benefits Despite Receiving Medical Referral for a Minor Preexisting Condition, August 24, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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