In June of 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida wrongful death case discussing whether the evidence presented by the plaintiff was sufficient to warrant punitive damages against the defendant nursing home. Ultimately, the court concluded that, while the evidence showed “multiple appalling examples” of situations where nursing home staff “dropped the ball,” the staff’s negligence was not attributable to the nursing home.

According to the court’s opinion, the estate of a woman who died while in the care of the defendant nursing home brought a Florida wrongful death claim against the facility, claiming that the facility’s negligence caused of the woman’s death. After the initial complaint was filed, the estate sought leave to amend to add a claim for punitive damages. The lower court granted the estate’s request, and the defendant nursing home appealed.

On appeal, the lower court’s decision to allow the estate to seek punitive damages was reversed. The court began its analysis by noting that when a plaintiff seeks to leave to amend to add a claim for punitive damages, a trial court must determine whether “there is sufficient admissible evidence … to ensure that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the claimant, at trial, will be able to demonstrate … such damages [are] warranted.” The court added that a plaintiff could meet this burden by proving either direct liability or vicarious liability.

In March, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case raising an interesting issue involving the liability of a security company. The case presents an interesting issue for Florida accident victims because it required the court to determine if the plaintiff could hold the defendant security company liable for injuries she sustained while at a shopping mall. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff could not do so because she was not a third-party beneficiary of the contract between the mall and the defendant security company.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her husband were shopping at the mall when the plaintiff tripped and fell on a rubber mat. The plaintiff claimed that the mat was protruding from underneath a desk immediately before the secured entrance. At the time of the plaintiff’s fall, an employee of the defendant security company was sitting at the desk. The plaintiff’s husband took pictures of the mat after his wife’s fall, and it appeared to be curled up at the edges.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against several parties, including the security company. The defendant claimed that it owed her no duty of care because it did not control the area where the plaintiff fell and that the plaintiff was not a third-party beneficiary of the contract with the mall. That contract provided that the defendant would, among other things, “ensure that prompt action is taken to prevent or minimize losses, accidents, fires, property damages, safety hazards and security incidents.” The lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

As a general rule, Florida landowners owe those whom they allow or invite onto their property a duty to ensure that the property is reasonably safe. The exact nature of this duty depends on several factors, including the relationship between the parties and the nature of the hazards that are present on the landowner’s property. When a landowner violates this duty, and a guest is injured as a result, the guest may be able to pursue a claim for compensation against the landowner. A recent case decided by a state appellate court illustrates the type of evidence a social guest must present to recover from a landowner.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a guest at a birthday party that was held at the defendant’s home. The defendant, however, was not the host of the party, and had allowed a friend to host the party at his home. When the plaintiff arrived at the party, she walked around the side of the house down to the backyard where the party was being held. As she made her way down a set of stairs, she tripped and fell. After her fall, she saw that there was an orange extension cord running across the steps. The defendant also stated that there were a lot of people inside the home at the time of her fall.

The defendant admitted that he was doing yard work earlier that day, but explained that all of his tools were gas-powered and that he did not use extension cords. He did, however, acknowledge, that he owned several orange extension cords. The defendant also explained that he left his home before the party started and arrived after the plaintiff’s fall, and that he had no knowledge of how the cord got there or who put it there. The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against the defendant, arguing that he was negligent in the maintenance of his property, which resulted in her injuries. The defendant unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment and filed an appeal.

E-commerce is responsible for a growing share of all retail sales. As a general matter, when a dangerous product injures a consumer, any company in the supply chain can be held liable through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. A recent federal appellate court decision clarifies the situations in which large online retailers can be held responsible for products that are sold on their sites.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiffs’ purchased a hoverboard on Amazon.com (Amazon). The hoverboard was sold on Amazon’s website, but was sold by a third-party seller. Neither Amazon nor the third-party seller manufactured the hoverboard. However, there was conflicting evidence whether the item was sold through Amazon’s “fulfilled by Amazon” (FBA) program.

The FBA program was essentially a drop-shipping agreement by which third-party sellers would pay Amazon and send their products to an Amazon warehouse. When an item was purchased, Amazon would ship the product. Aside from storing and shipping the product, Amazon had no role in selling the product, including setting the price or advertising the hoverboard, and never took ownership of the item. The hoverboard arrived in an Amazon box, and the plaintiffs believed that Amazon sold it. There was also conflicting evidence regarding whether Amazon retained payment for the hoverboard.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida slip-and-fall case discussing the state’s pleading requirements and whether the plaintiff’s complaint sufficiently alleged a claim against the defendant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s complaint was sufficient, reversing the lower court’s decision and allowing her claim to proceed towards trial.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she tripped and fell while at the local library. Evidently, the plaintiff was making copies when the bottom drawer of the copy machine “flew wide open” without any warning. As a result, the plaintiff tripped and landed on her knees. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the library, claiming that the library “owned the photocopier and had a duty to use reasonable care in maintaining the machine to ensure that it was safe for use by patrons.”

On the library’s motion, the court overseeing the plaintiff’s case determined that the plaintiff failed to state a cause of action and dismissed her claims. Specifically, the court held that the plaintiff did not plead a case that, if proven, would have entitled her to damages. The plaintiff appealed the dismissal of her case.

Each year, thousands of people are injured in Florida workplace accidents. Often, these accidents result in serious injury that requires an employee to undergo medical treatment, reducing or eliminating the employee’s ability to work. In severe cases, employees must take months off work and may not ever be able to return to work in the same capacity as before the injury.

Florida law provides injured workers with two avenues of potential compensation for their injuries. The first is through a Florida workers’ compensation claim. The benefits of a workers’ compensation claim are that it will not require an injured employee to establish that their employer was at fault and, in addition, the process of obtaining benefits is a quick one. However, the damages that are available in a workers’ compensation claim are limited, and do not include compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.

Florida workplace accident victims may also be able to pursue a personal injury case against one or more parties. Before getting into the specifics of a personal injury case, it is critical that injured workers understand that not every workplace accident can be the basis of a personal injury lawsuit. Under Florida Statutes Section 440.11, a workers’ compensation claim is an injured employee’s sole remedy against their employer in most cases. As a result, a personal injury case may not ordinarily be filed against an employer. However, third-party claims are permitted. A third-party claim is a personal injury claim filed against a non-employer third-party.

One of the most important legal doctrines that all accident victims should understand is the concept of comparative fault. While some Florida personal injury accidents are solely the fault of one party, many accidents involve a situation where the parties share responsibility for that accident. The doctrine of comparative fault determines which parties involved in an accident can recover for their injuries.

Under Florida Statutes section 768.81, any “contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.” This means that an accident victim’s negligence will be considered by the jury, and will be used to reduce the victim’s overall recovery amount, but will not completely prevent them from recovering for their injuries from any at-fault parties.

While some states prohibit an accident victim who is more than 50% at fault from pursuing a claim, Florida law employs the “pure” comparative negligence model, meaning a plaintiff can bring a claim even if they are found to be more than 50% at fault. For example, assume a Florida car accident victim is found to be 30% liable for causing the collision, and the only other driver involved is determined to be 70% at fault. If the plaintiff’s damages were $500,000, then the plaintiff would be entitled to recover $500,000 less 30%, or $350,000.

While juries can determine the appropriate amount of compensation to award a plaintiff, a jury’s award must be consistent. On May 29, 2019, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida car accident case holding that the jury’s zero-dollar award for the plaintiff’s claim of past non-economic damages was legally insufficient because it was inconsistent with the jury’s determination that the plaintiff suffered injuries that required medical treatment.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was stopped at a red light when he was struck by another car. Evidently, the defendant made an illegal left turn into the intersection and hit a vehicle that then struck the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff did not receive medical care at the scene and did not go to the hospital after the accident.

Nearly four years after the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the car as well as the owner of the car. The plaintiff claimed that the driver was negligent in causing the accident and that the owner of the vehicle was negligent in entrusting her vehicle to the driver. The defendant acknowledged that the defendant driver was responsible for causing the accident, and so the trial proceeded only on the issue of damages.

When a Florida car accident is caused by someone who was working at the time of the accident, anyone injured as a result of the employee’s negligence may be able to pursue a claim against both the employee and the employer through the doctrine of vicarious liability. The doctrine of vicarious liability allows accident victims to hold one party liable for the negligent acts of another party, even if the employer was not alleged to be directly at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries.

In the case of employer liability, a Florida accident victim must be able to establish that the employee’s actions that are the basis of the plaintiff’s claim were:  1.) within the scope of their employment, and 2.) during the course of employment and to further a purpose or interest of the employer. If these elements are met, the plaintiff can name the at-fault party as well as their employer as defendants, regardless of whether the employer had any reason to know that the employee presented a danger to others.

Florida accident victims can also pursue a claim of primary negligence against an at-fault party’s employer based on the employer’s own negligence. Unlike claims alleging vicarious liability, these claims require the plaintiff to establish that an employer was somehow negligent. Examples of primary liability claims against an employer are negligent hiring and negligent retention claims. A recent case illustrates one way an accident victim can pursue a claim against an at-fault driver’s employer.

The typical Florida personal injury case requires the plaintiff to establish proof of four elements:  duty, breach, causation, and damages. In many cases, the defendant acknowledges that they breached a duty that was owed to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff suffered injuries, but they claim that their breach of the duty was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

To satisfy the causation element, a plaintiff must show that their injuries were the direct or natural consequence of the defendant’s actions. Importantly, a Florida personal injury plaintiff does not need to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the only cause of their injuries, only that it was a contributing factor. A plaintiff can even recover from a negligent defendant if the plaintiff shared responsibility for the accident resulting in their injuries.

Proving that the defendant’s actions were the legal cause of an injury can be tricky, depending on the circumstances. Generally, a plaintiff cannot rely on speculation and must present some evidence indicating that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. A recent decision issued by a state appellate court discusses the element of causation.

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