storefrontRecently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida premise liability lawsuit discussing a landowner’s liability involving potentially hazardous conditions of the property. Specifically, the case dealt with a hazard that the court held to be “open and obvious.” The court held that because the hazard was easily observable by the plaintiff, the plaintiff was put on notice of the hazard’s existence and thus, the defendant could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was exiting a movie theater when he left the paved sidewalk to cut through a planter box containing a large palm tree. The ground immediately around the base of the palm tree contained artificial turf and some paving bricks that had become uneven as the tree’s roots grew underneath.

As the plaintiff walked across the planter box, he tripped and fell in a divot in the ground. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the fall and filed a premises liability lawsuit against the movie theater.

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witness testimonyIn Florida personal injury cases, the jury must make the ultimate decision as to whether the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and what, if any, damages are appropriate. In many cases, the judge will explain the legal issues involved in the case to the jury, and the jurors will then be able to use their common sense to resolve the issues. However, in some cases involving issues that are beyond the understanding of most jurors, the plaintiff may be required to present the testimony of an expert witness.

An expert witness is someone who is an expert in the specific issue raised by the case. In Florida medical malpractice cases, doctors are often used as expert witnesses. In Florida car accident cases, engineers may be called as expert witnesses. There is no hard-and-fast rule stating when an expert is necessary, but Florida law allows for an expert to be called whenever “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge would assist the trier of fact.” While some cases, such as Florida medical malpractice cases, require expert testimony, the decision whether to call an expert witness is normally left to the discretion of the parties.

In a recent appellate decision, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case because she failed to present expert testimony in support of her position.

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shopping centerRecently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing the duty that a business has to maintain the area that customers use to approach the business. Ultimately, the court concluded that while a business may be responsible for maintaining the immediate area of approach, the business in this case was not liable for the plaintiff’s injury which occurred about 45 feet outside of the store’s doors in the parking lot.

The case presents an interesting issue for Florida slip-and-fall accident victims because it discusses which parties may be liable for the various areas in a commercial shopping center. Importantly, only the store was named in this case, and not the shopping center that owned and maintained the parking lot.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was shopping at a Big Lots store when she slipped on a wet substance in the store’s parking lot while she was on her way back to her car. The location of the plaintiff’s fall was about 45 feet from the store’s door. The store was in a shopping center that was owned by another company, which was not named in the lawsuit.

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product liabilityIdeally, all products would be safe; however, the reality is that society has a need for products that can be very dangerous. For example, it would seemingly be impossible to manufacture a safe chainsaw. But the mere fact that society has a need for a product that is inherently dangerous does not absolve the manufacturer of that product from the responsibility of providing an adequate warning.

Warnings are important, even on products society recognizes as dangerous. A proper warning will inform users of the appropriate way to use the product, the potentially avoidable dangers involved when the product is used for its intended purpose, as well as what can occur if the warning is not followed. Additionally, manufacturers should warn users against foreseeable misuses of the product. A manufacturer’s failure to provide an adequate warning on their product may be the basis of a Florida failure-to-warn claim.

A recent federal appellate court issued a written opinion in which the court discussed the plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim.

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mikecphotoDuring the formation of our country, the founding fathers did not provide a mechanism for citizens to hold the federal, state, and local governments liable for injuries caused by government actors, unless the government being named as a defendant agreed to be named in the lawsuit. In fact, governments were then, and still are to some extent, presumed to be immune from tort liability. However, since then, state and federal lawmakers have passed a series of laws known as tort claims acts, which statutorily waive government immunity in certain circumstances.

Generally, a tort claims act requires that certain procedures be followed in order for the government to waive its immunity. The State of Florida is no different. Under the Florida Tort Claims Act (FTCA), if a Florida accident victim fails to comply with the requirements of the FTCA, the accident victim’s case will be dismissed. Thus, it is very important that an accident victim ensure that they follow all the requirements of the FTCA.

A recent case illustrates the strict manner in which courts apply the requirements of a tort claims act.

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car accidentIn Florida car accident cases, one of the first issues the parties may argue over is where the case will be heard. Of course, most plaintiffs would prefer to file the case in a venue that is convenient for them. However, as a general rule venue is appropriate where the defendant resides. That being said, a plaintiff can choose where to initially file a case, and may have some say in where a case is heard.

A recent case discusses a somewhat complicated venue issue that arose after an uninsured motorist collision. The case involved a named and an unnamed defendant, and required the court to determine whether the named defendant should be able to transfer the case to his home county. Finding that the case could be heard in either of the defendant’s home venues, the court determined that the named defendant was not entitled to transfer the case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were involved in a three-car accident after an unnamed driver swerved in front of their vehicle, requiring them to quickly apply the brakes. The named defendant, who was traveling directly behind the plaintiffs, slammed into the back of their car. The plaintiffs claimed the named defendant was following too closely.

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drinking while drivingRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a car accident that was caused by an intoxicated employee was covered under the employer’s insurance policy. Specifically, the case required the court to determine if the employee was considered a “permissive user” under the company’s insurance policy. Ultimately, the court concluded that the employee was a permissive user, and therefore the accident was covered under the employer’s insurance policy.

The case presents a valuable lesson for Florida car accident victims in that it illustrates the importance of discovering all available potential avenues for recovery in a personal injury lawsuit. By naming multiple responsible parties, a plaintiff increases their chance of recovery in the event that one named defendant is insolvent or found not to be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident when the defendant rear-ended him. At the time of the accident, the defendant was traveling for work and operating a company vehicle. It was later determined that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.

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rollercoasterIn June of this year, six passengers were injured in a Florida roller coaster accident when one of the coaster’s car became derailed from the tracks. Two of the passengers in the front car were thrown from the ride, falling 34 feet to the ground. The remaining passengers waited in cars that were dangling from the tracks for emergency responders to extricate them from the ride. In all, ten people had to be removed by emergency workers, and six were hospitalized with varying injuries.

At the time of the accident, there was much speculation as to what could have caused the ride to malfunction in such a dangerous way. According to a recent news report, an investigation into the accident has uncovered some additional information as to what may have caused the accident.

Evidently, there were several problems that may have contributed to the accident. First, investigators noted that the ride looked as though cars had been derailed in the past, but had not been reported. Generally, Florida roller coasters are inspected twice a year by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). However, ride operators are required to conduct daily inspections prior to opening the ride to the public. This includes inspecting the structural integrity of the ride, as well as the condition of the track and cars. These inspections are required to be kept on hand in the event of an incident.

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Under Florida Statutes section 766.106, Florida medical malpractice plaintiffs must comply with certain additional procedural requirements. For example, a Florida medical malpractice plaintiff must provide pre-suit notice to the defendants, including a list of all of their medical providers for the two-year period prior to the incident as well as all providers seen subsequent to the incident. In addition, medical malpractice plaintiffs are subject to a shorter statute of limitations and must also present an expert affidavit in support of their claim.Legal News Gavel

These additional requirements, while burdensome, may not seem like an insurmountable hurdle. However, in reality, defendants often attempt to raise a plaintiff’s failure to comply with the additional requirements as a defense after the lawsuit has been filed. Thus, a defendant may be successful in barring a plaintiff’s ability to recover damages by establishing that the plaintiff failed to comply, and by that point, it may be too late because the statute of limitations has expired.

Thus, the determination of whether a case is one of traditional negligence or medical malpractice is an important one. In a recent case, a state appellate court issued an opinion discussing the distinction between the two types of cases and which types of cases are likely to be considered ones involving claims of medical malpractice.

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In Florida slip-and-fall lawsuits, the plaintiff must present some evidence that the defendant landowner knew of the hazard and failed to take action. Courts, however, do not necessarily require plaintiffs to present evidence of a defendant’s actual knowledge. In some cases, a plaintiff may be able to meet their burden by establishing that the defendant had constructive knowledge of the hazard.Legal News Gavel

Under Florida Statute section 768.0755, constructive knowledge can be established by circumstantial evidence in one of two ways:

  • The condition was present for such a length of time that the business should have known of its existence; or
  • The condition occurred frequently.

The type of evidence required to prove constructive knowledge varies depending on the surrounding circumstances. And as a recent case illustrates, establishing a defendant’s constructive knowledge may not be as simple as it initially seems.

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