Florida premises liability laws require all landowners take certain precautions to ensure that their property is safe. The extent of a landowner’s duty significantly depends on the relationship between the landowner and their guest. Guests who are on a landowner’s property for business reasons are referred to as invitees, and enjoy the highest duty of care. Restaurant patrons fit within this category.

Among the issues that come up in South Florida slip and fall cases is that of the plaintiff’s knowledge of the hazard that caused their fall. Defendants often argue that plaintiffs should not be allowed to hold them responsible for risks that the plaintiff should have been able to avoid. Thus, a plaintiff may have a difficult time recovering for their injuries if the defendant can show that the hazard was “open and obvious.” A recent case illustrates this concept.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff visited the defendant restaurant for lunch with a friend. Upon arriving, the plaintiff ascended a set of concrete stairs which contained several small landings. There were handrails along each of the stairs, but not along each of the landings. The plaintiff made it up the stairs without issue. However, after lunch, the plaintiff tripped and fell on the last step. Apparently, the plaintiff thought he was at the bottom of the stairs when, in reality, there was one more step. The plaintiff tripped and was seriously injured.

Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida personal injury case involving the state’s statute of repose for claims related to the “design, planning, or construction of an improvement to real property.” Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim fit within the statute’s reach, and was no longer viable under the applicable statute of repose.

Statutes of repose are similar to statutes of limitations in that they limit the time a plaintiff has to file a claim. However, unlike a statute of limitations, a statute of repose is not subject to tolling or extensions. Thus, a statute of repose can bar a plaintiff’s claim even if the plaintiff does not know of the alleged defect until after the statute has expired.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff purchased a home from the defendant home builder on May 7, 2004. On June 6, 2012, the plaintiff was climbing into the attic to repair a leak when the attic stairs collapsed. The plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against the home builder, claiming that it was negligent for “failing to ensure that the attic ladder was installed in a secure manner” and “failing to verify that the ladder was secure before selling the home.”

As a general rule, Florida landowners must take steps to make sure that their property is safe for the visitors whom they allow onto their land. For the most part, this includes publicly- and privately-owned land. However, under the Florida recreational use statute, there is an exception that allows for landowners to evade responsibility in certain situations.

Under Florida’s recreational use statute, anyone who allows the public to use their property for recreational purposes, without charging a fee, cannot be held liable for injuries occurring on their property. The statute applies to a variety of activities, including hunting, fishing, camping, wildlife viewing, swimming, boating, picnicking, and water skiing. A recent state appellate decision raises a commonly encountered issue in cases that implicate the recreational use statute.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her boyfriend were camping at a state park. Evidently, once the two parked, there were two ways to access the campground from the parking lot; a stone staircase and an ADA-approved wheelchair ramp. The plaintiff and her boyfriend used the stairs on the way down without incident.

In some Florida personal injury cases, either or both parties will rely on the testimony of an expert witness to help prove their case. Typically, expert witnesses are not needed. However, if the issues involved in a case are complex and beyond the common understanding of the jurors, then an expert witness may help the jury resolve these issues.

Florida law requires that parties disclose the names of the experts they will be calling. Additionally, the law requires that a party provides an overview of the witness’ expected testimony. A recent opinion released by a state appellate court discusses the ramifications if proper notice of expert witness testimony is not given.

According to the written opinion, the plaintiff was incarcerated at a county jail when he was injured in a bus accident. The plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against the county. The county initially did not plan on calling an expert witness. However, during pre-trial discovery, it was revealed that the plaintiff was involved in two other vehicle accidents and that he planned on calling an expert witness at trial. One of the accidents occurred after this bus accident but before the case went to trial, complicating the question of what caused the plaintiff’s damages. In light of the new information, the county then named an expert witness, who would testify solely to impeach the plaintiff’s medical expert.

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a case discussing a crucial issue that arises in many Florida personal injury cases. The case required the court to determine if the defendant insurance company could be named as a responsible party.

The facts of the case are not complicated, but the relationships between the parties are a little confusing. According to the court’s opinion, a girl was visiting a resort while at a Bible camp. The church leased several conference rooms from the resort. The resort had various other amenities, including a zip-line. The lease between the church and the resort did not mention the zip-line.

The young girl and a few friends decided to go zip-lining during some downtime. The girls had to sign release waivers and pay an additional fee. Unfortunately, while the girl was on the course, a resort employee forgot to clip the girl’s carabiner to the line, and she fell 50 feet. The girl and her family filed a personal injury case against the resort.

In June 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability case requiring the court determine if a property management company overseeing an apartment complex could be liable for a resident’s injuries. Ultimately, the court concluded that the agreement between the property management company and the owner of the complex may have placed a duty on the property management company to fix the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Thus, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision to grant the management company’s motion for summary judgment.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff had lived at the apartment complex for about 11 months. Typically, the plaintiff would drive to go get her mail from a kiosk located at the front of the complex. However, one day, she decided to walk. On her way, the plaintiff tripped and fell as she was walking down a sloped portion of the sidewalk that was designated for wheelchairs.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against several parties, including the property management company. Evidently, the property management company had entered into a contract with the owner of the complex whereby the company would advertise vacancies, collect rent, and maintain the property. Specifically, the agreement allowed the company to use its discretion when conducting repairs costing less than $2,000, but required owner approval for the more expensive maintenance unless “emergency action is necessary.” It was established that repairing the sidewalk would have cost more than $2,000. Both the property management company as the complex owner knew that the sloped walkway was not in compliance with city code.

Florida medical malpractice claims require extensive work and resources. In a recent medical malpractice case before a federal appeals court, the court had to consider whether a $7 million dollar verdict could stand against a doctor after a baby suffered permanent brain damage after her birth.

Evidently, the baby was born with severe respiratory issues and developed permanent brain damage. The baby was born at a hospital that did not have a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and did not have all of the equipment found in a NICU. Babies that needed specialized care were often transported to a nearby hospital with a NICU. This baby showed signs of respiratory distress immediately after she was born. She was provided with supplemental oxygen, and the doctor left for a few hours. The baby was not improving, and the doctor first decided to transfer the baby to the nearby NICU. However, a new neonatologist specialist at the hospital said that a transfer was not necessary, and agreed to take the baby on as a patient.

The baby’s condition continued to deteriorate, and she was eventually transferred the next day to the NICU, and stayed for almost a month. The baby’s mother filed a lawsuit alleging that the first doctor and others were at fault for the baby’s permanent brain damage. The mother claimed that the doctor should have transferred the baby from the hospital where she was born to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit that could have provided the baby with the care she needed. The other defendants settled the suit with the mother, but the case against the doctor went to trial, and the court awarded the mother over $7 million in damages.

Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida truck accident case seeking clarification from the state’s high court. The Fifth District Court of Appeal released the opinion, asking the Florida Supreme Court whether there should be a different summary judgment standard involving video evidence.

Summary judgment is a stage in which either party can ask the judge to enter judgment in their favor based on the other side’s inability to succeed at trial. When reviewing a party’s motion for summary judgment, the court considers all the evidence that is not in dispute and applies the applicable law to those facts. If the court determines that the law favors the moving party, it will grant that party’s motion for summary judgment, avoiding the need for a trial. Of course, if there is conflicting evidence relating to a material issue in the case, summary judgment is not appropriate, and the case must be submitted to a jury. The jury will then resolve the factual issues, and the court will instruct the jury how it should rule based on how the jury decides the issues.

This case presented an issue that arises with increasing frequency; how courts should handle conflicting evidence in the summary judgment stage when one party presents video evidence. The facts of the case are explained in the court’s opinion as follows: A man was driving on the highway when he rear-ended a semi-truck. The man died, and his estate filed a Florida wrongful death case against the truck driver.

Not surprisingly, slip-and-fall accidents are most common in areas that receive a high volume of foot traffic. Thus, shopping malls, grocery stores, sidewalks, and parking lots are the most common places Florida slip-and-fall accidents occur. Each of these locations presents unique dangers and may implicate multiple defendants. A recent state appellate opinion in a premises liability case illustrates the type of analysis courts engage in when reviewing slip-and-fall claims.

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was shopping at the defendant grocery store. Evidently, the plaintiff finished shopping and was returning her car to the corral in the parking lot that holds the carts until an employee can retrieve them. The plaintiff wheeled the cart into the corral without any issue. However, after depositing the cart into the corral, the plaintiff tripped as she exited the corral.

Apparently, the flat, metal crossbar that connected the two sides of the corral that was supposed to lie flat against the ground was slightly raised. According to the defendant, a delivery driver bumped into the corral a few months earlier, causing the frame of the corral to shift, slightly lifting the crossbar off the ground. The defendant grocery store indicated that it knew about the damaged corral, and had called to inquire about getting it fixed, but the repair was not made.

In July, 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida car accident case discussing whether the defendant, the City of Coral Gables, was immune from liability based on governmental immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s evidence gave rise to a material fact that needed to be resolved by a jury. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s decision granting summary judgment to the City.

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was driving north on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, approaching the intersection with Navarre Avenue. As the plaintiff, who was riding a motorcycle, approached the intersection, he noticed another driver slowly approaching the intersection in the opposite direction.

The other driver initiated a left turn without yielding the right of way, leaving the plaintiff with no time to react. The plaintiff crashed his motorcycle into the right front fender of the other vehicle. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result of the crash. The other driver stated that he could not see the plaintiff as he approached the intersection due to several palm trees that were in the center median.

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