Florida Court Limits Application of the “Express Assumption of Risk” Doctrine

Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who tripped and fell while practicing on-stage with a church band. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the “assumption of the risk doctrine” and when it is appropriate for a court to prevent a plaintiff’s case from proceeding by determining that the plaintiff assumed the risks involved with the activity that led to his injuries.

Assumption of the Risk

In some cases in which a person is injured while engaging in an activity that he or she knew to be dangerous, courts may prevent that person from holding other parties responsible for their injuries, based on the theory that the plaintiff assumed the risk of the dangerous activity. Generally, in order to establish an assumption of the risk defense, a defendant must be able to show that the injured party knew that the activity was dangerous and willingly participated in the activity despite knowledge of the risks. Assumption of the risk defenses are common in cases involving contact sports or other high-risk activities.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a member of the defendant church and also played in the church band. One day during rehearsals, the plaintiff tripped and fell on an unsecured cord that ran across the stage to power the electric bass guitar. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the church, arguing that the church failed to safely maintain the stage area.

The church argued that the man assumed the risk of injury because he had been a member of the church band for two years, and he presumably knew that there were some dangers involved in walking across the stage while electric cords were present. The trial court agreed with the church, finding that the plaintiff “expressly assumed the risk” of injury, and it dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The plaintiff then appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that Florida courts have previously limited the application of express assumption of the risk to certain situations involving agreements not to sue and cases arising out of injuries caused by contact sports. Based on this prior decision, the plaintiff argued that the lower court should have not held that he expressly assumed the risk of injury by rehearsing with the church band, since it involved neither of the mentioned situations.

The appellate court agreed and reversed the lower court’s decision. As a result of this case, the plaintiff’s case will be heard by a jury. If the jury determines the church was negligent, the jury will then be able to determine if the plaintiff implicitly assumed any of the risks involved and, if so, whether his award should be reduced as a result.

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

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a South Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience representing injured Floridians in a wide variety of personal injury and wrongful death cases, including those involving slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more about how Florida law may apply to your case, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Errant Golf Ball Strikes Baby in Stroller on Nearby City-Owned Walking Path, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 5, 2017.

The Importance of Following All Procedural Requirements in Florida Personal Injury Cases, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 17, 2017.

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