Florida Appellate Court Discusses Whether Motorist Has a Duty to Install Trailer Brakes

Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida pedestrian accident case involving a pick-up truck that struck a woman who was standing on the side of the road waiting for a bus. Specifically, the court was asked to determine whether the owner of the pick-up truck had a duty to install brakes on the trailer that was being towed. Ultimately, the court concluded that such a duty may exist, depending on the surrounding circumstances, but remanded the case to the lower court to make the determination.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was standing on the side of the road, waiting for a bus with her grandchildren when she was struck by a pick-up truck towing a trailer. The driver of the pick-up truck was the daughter of the truck’s owner, who had loaded the truck in preparation for the trip. However, before leaving, the owner of the truck did not feel well and asked his daughter to make the trip. The trailer was overloaded and did not have brakes installed.

As the owner’s daughter was driving, the traffic in front of her suddenly stopped. She applied the brakes in an attempt to safely come to a stop. However, as the owner’s daughter approached the traffic ahead of her, she realized she wasn’t going to stop in time. She swerved onto the shoulder to avoid stopped traffic, but struck the plaintiff.

The plaintiff filed a Florida personal injury lawsuit against several parties. Relevant to this appeal was her claim against the truck’s owner. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the owner was negligent for failing to install brakes on the trailer. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the defendant did not have a duty to install brakes on the trailer because there was no law requiring that type of trailer to have brakes. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, finding that the lower court oversimplified the analysis. The court explained that a duty can be created by sources other than a statute. Specifically, the court noted that the “general facts of the case” may create a duty in certain situations.

Here, the appellate court first noted that the lower court only considered whether there was a statute, and failed to consider whether the unique facts of the case gave rise to a duty to install brakes on the trailer. Because of this, the court remanded the case back to the trial court to consider the issue.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Car Accident?

If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a Florida car accident, contact the dedicated injury lawyers at Friedman Rodman & Frank. At our South Florida personal injury law firm, we represent injury victims in all types of claims against the parties responsible for their injuries. We offer free consultations to all prospective clients in which we will answer any questions you may have and explain how we can help. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule your free consultation.

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