Florida Court Discusses the Difference Between Two Common Product Liability Claims in Recent Slip-and-Fall Case

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida slip-and-fall case in which the court discussed the difference between a plaintiff’s claim that the defendant landowner failed to maintain their property and a claim that a landowner failed to warn visitors about a known hazard. The case arose after the plaintiff slipped and fell on a portion of damaged sidewalk in the condominium complex where she lived.

Evidently, the plaintiff had lived in the complex for the past decade, and was familiar with the area where she fell. In fact, according to the court’s opinion, she regularly traversed the area without a problem. After her fall, the plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the complex, making two claims. First, the plaintiff asserted that the complex was negligent in failing to warn her of a known danger. Second, the plaintiff claimed that the complex was negligent for failing to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition.

The complex’s main defense was that the plaintiff knew of the hazard, and that it was open and obvious. The complex argued that these facts should negate any potential liability and that the court should dismiss the case against it. The lower court agreed, finding that the hazard was open and obvious, and holding that the plaintiff assumed any risk of injury by crossing the area she knew to be hazardous.

The Court’s Decision

The court explained that the plaintiff’s claims, while both brought under the larger umbrella of product-liability claims, required she prove slightly different facts. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s decision as it pertained to the plaintiff’s failure-to-maintain claim.

The court noted that the lower court was correct in that the plaintiff had knowledge of the hazard and that this knowledge relieved the complex of warning the plaintiff about the damaged sidewalk. However, the court went on to explain that these facts did not resolve the plaintiff’s failure-to-maintain claim. The court reasoned that a failure-to-maintain claim is not ordinarily defeated by a plaintiff’s knowledge of the hazard. Instead, the focus is appropriately on the defendant’s negligence in not keeping the property safe. If the plaintiff shares in the responsibility for an accident, the court explained that the proper way to factor this into the equation is by letting the jury determine the plaintiff’s percentage of fault and then reducing her award amount accordingly. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s failure-to-maintain claim, allowing it to proceed to trial.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?

Slip-and-fall accidents often result in serious, life-altering injuries. At the South Florida law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent the victims of slip-and-fall accidents in cases against negligent property owners. We have extensive experience handling Florida premises liability claims, as well as other types of personal injury cases, including car accidents, truck accidents, and injuries caused by dangerous or defective products. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated Florida personal injury advocate, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

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