Florida Appellate Court Reverses Premises Liability Verdict over Improper Jury Instruction

Most Florida negligence lawsuits that proceed to a trial are ultimately decided by a jury. Juries are made up of randomly selected members of the public, who are not expected to have any specific knowledge of tort law. Courts use jury instructions, which are given to the jurors before deliberation, to explain the law to the jurors, and ensure that a verdict is supported by the law. Jury instructions are determined after each side proposes and argues to the court the exact wording for instructions that will allow the jury to reach a legitimate verdict. If an instruction is given to the jury that does not accurately explain the law surrounding the issue at hand, a verdict could be overruled on appeal. A Florida appellate court recently addressed an appeal filed by a defendant in a slip and fall case, which argued that the jury was improperly instructed before reaching the verdict.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a woman who was injured after she slipped on an oily substance while shopping at the defendant’s supermarket. Based on her injuries, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant in state court, alleging that the defendant had negligently maintained the premise of their business, and the plaintiff was injured as a result of that negligence. The plaintiff’s case went to trial, after which the jury was given instructions explaining the basis for a premises liability claim against a Florida business.

One instruction, proposed by the plaintiff, stated that the defendant should be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries if evidence demonstrated that the defendant negligently failed to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, or negligently failed to correct a dangerous condition about which the defendant either knew or should have known, by the use of reasonable care, or negligently failed to warn the plaintiff of the dangerous condition about which the defendant had, or should have had, knowledge greater than that of the plaintiff.

The defendant objected to the plaintiff’s proposed instruction, arguing that the language of the instruction was outdated and that the current law requires the jury to find that the defendant had actual or constructive notice of the hazard before they could be found liable for the plaintiff’s injury. The trial court overruled the defendant’s objection, and the jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant appealed the ruling to a state appellate court, where the court determined that current Florida law requires a finding that a defendant was on actual or constructive notice of a hazard before they can be held liable for injuries resulting therefrom. Because the instruction did not make that clear, the verdict will be unable to stand. As a result of the appellate decision, if the parties are unable to settle the case, then another trial will be held on the issue, where the jury instructions will be given correctly.

Holding Businesses Accountable for Hazardous Conditions?

If you or someone you love has been injured by a hazardous condition while shopping or otherwise trafficking a private business, the business or property owners may be liable for your injuries. Contacting a qualified Florida premises liability attorney from Friedman, Rodman & Frank can help you pursue your claim for damages. Our Florida negligence lawyers are experienced in handling slip and fall cases, and there is no upfront cost in retaining our services to pursue a claim. Our attorneys represent victims of slip and fall accidents, as well as other personal injury and medical malpractice claims. Contact our offices at 877-448-8585 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation today.


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