Florida Appellate Court Reiterates that Witness Credibility Is Not at Issue in Summary Judgment Proceedings

Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case that was brought by a man who had fallen after slipping on a puddle of oil in a condominium complex. In reversing the lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the appellate court held that it was improper for the court to assess the credibility of the plaintiff’s witness at the summary judgment stage.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking in a common area in the defendant’s condo complex when he slipped and fell after stepping in a puddle of oil. After picking himself up, the plaintiff noticed that the oil was coming from underneath the door to the elevator service closet. He estimated the puddle to be about four feet by five feet.

After the plaintiff informed the defendant of his fall, the defendant sent out an elevator technician to fix the leak. The technician determined that the leak was caused by a seal that had deteriorated. He estimated that the output was about one drip every two seconds; however, he did not provide an estimate regarding when the leak had started.

The plaintiff presented a mechanical engineer as an expert witness. The expert testified that, considering the flow of the leak and the size of the puddle, the leak started at least 24 hours before the plaintiff’s fall. It was also determined that the elevator was not up to code.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant after declining to credit the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony. The trial court explained that the expert’s opinion was uncertain, and he was not an “elevator expert.” Thus, the trial court determined that the expert was not credible. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the appellate court held that during a summary judgment proceeding, the trial court should not make credibility determinations. Instead, the court should consider all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Here, that was the plaintiff. The court explained that credibility determinations are properly resolved by the jury, and the court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case was improper. As a result, the lower court’s decision was reversed, and the plaintiff will be permitted to continue forward with his lawsuit.

Have You Been a Victim of a South Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently suffered a slip-and-fall accident on another party’s property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation, depending on the surrounding circumstances. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience handling all kinds of premises liability cases, and we know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalf. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Appellate Court Invalidates Arbitration Agreement, Rejecting Nursing Home’s Argument, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 30, 2017.

Court Characterizes Doctor’s Office Slip-and-Fall Accident as a Medical Malpractice Incident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 9, 2017.

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