COVID-19 FAQs

Recently, an appellate court issued its opinion in a bad faith claim homeowners filed against their home insurance company. According to the court’s opinion, the homeowners filed a claim with their insurance company after suffering losses from Hurricane Irma. The insurance company investigated the claim and determined that the homeowners’ loss was $3,013.20. In response, the homeowners provided the insurance company with their public adjustor’s estimate of their losses. According to the insurance agreement, the insurer began the appraisal process. The policy contained provisions that either party could demand an appraisal if the parties failed to agree to the amount of loss. Further, the policy included a provision that homeowners could not file a lawsuit unless the parties fully complied with the policy’s terms.

The homeowners filed a civil remedy notice of insurer’s violation (CRN), alleging that the insurance company breached its duty to settle the claims in good faith. They argued that the company was given notice of the severity of the homeowners’ losses, and the opportunity to inspect the property. The homeowners contended that, despite this opportunity, the insurer failed to identify the full extent of losses. As such, they filed a complaint based on Florida’s bad faith statute.

Under Florida Statutes, section 624.155, policyholders maintain a civil remedy for an insurance company’s bad faith. The claim applies in situations that an insurer failed to act reasonably, honestly, and in good faith to settle claims. Florida law requires plaintiffs to provide the Florida Department of Financial Services and the insurer with written notice of a violation. The CRN notice must include specific statutory violations, relevant facts and policy provisions, and a statement asserting the plaintiff’s right to pursue a civil claim. The statuary requirements to a Florida bad faith insurance claim require the claimant establish that the insurer was liable for coverage, the policy holder’s damages, and compliance with the notice requirements. The statute does not bar an insured from sending a CRN before a determination of liability or damages.

Florida premises liability lawsuits often involve a slip and fall or trip and fall. These accidents can occur at businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, nursing homes, and public buildings. Generally, under state law, business owners and land occupiers owe invitees a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. Despite the law, property owners often fail to maintain their property safely and often delay making repairs or address hazards.

On the other hand, in some instances, a business owner may believe their property is safe. In these cases, the trier of fact will determine whether the property is safe under a “reasonable person” standard. In other words, the court will ask whether another similarly situated entity would act similarly or evaluate the danger in the same way. Moreover, some business owners may argue that the danger was “open and obvious.” When this occurs, the court will determine whether the condition was so open and obvious that it serves as a warning to the invitee to protect themselves from its dangers.

For example, in a recent opinion, a Florida court addressed whether a groove in the pavement in an ice cream store’s parking lot was an open and obvious hazard. In that case, a woman was navigating a parking lot to get to the ice cream shop when she tripped and fell into a groove in the pavement. The woman initiated a lawsuit against the parking lot owner, alleging that her injuries arose because of its negligence. At trial, the defendant argued that the depression in the pavement was so open and obvious that the woman should have realized its dangers and taken steps to avoid hurting herself.

The First District Court of the State of Florida recently issued an opinion in response to a defendant’s petition for certiorari review of a punitive damages claim. The case arose following an incident where the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant ran his car into the plaintiff and several other pedestrians. The defendant pled guilty to the claims, and the plaintiff amended his complaint to add a claim for punitive damages. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint, and the defendant appealed.

Under Florida law, a party may ask the court for certiorari relief if the party believes that the trial court failed to comply with appropriate procedural requirements. The party must establish that the trial court departed from the law’s requirements, which resulted in a material injury to the case, and the error cannot be corrected on appeal.

In this case, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in allowing the plaintiff to claim punitive damages. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff did not abide by the evidentiary requirements of a punitive damages claim. Further, the defendant argued that the court failed to make the appropriate findings that the plaintiff met the punitive damages evidentiary standard.

When someone suffers an injury because of a defective product, they may be able to recover damages under Florida’s product liability laws. Product liability lawsuits are claims brought against a manufacturer or seller for putting a defective product into the stream of commerce. In Florida, most product liability claims stem from design defects, manufacturing defects, and marketing defects. The majority of these cases encompass the doctrine of strict liability. Although there are many similarities between ordinary negligence clams and strict liability, the difference is critical. Lawsuits involving strict liability claims do not typically require that the plaintiff provide proof of the defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care. Instead, liability is imposed based on the defendant’s capacity as a manufacturer, retailer, or seller.

Issues often arise when the defendant is an intermediary or sells products from a third-party, such as is the case with Amazon. Historically, Amazon has avoided liability by maintaining its position as a mere conduit between buyers and sellers. The major online marketplace has relied on the Communications Decency Act, which provides legal protections for online entities for content users post on their platforms. However, courts across the United States have started to examine whether this broad-ranging protection is appropriate.

In fact, a state appellate court recently issued a noteworthy opinion in a product liability lawsuit against Amazon. In that case, the plaintiff purchased a computer battery on Amazon, by a seller using a fictitious name on the website. Amazon charged the plaintiff, acquired the battery from one of their warehouses, prepared it for shipment in Amazon packaging, and mailed it to the plaintiff. The plaintiff suffered severe burns when the battery exploded a few months later.

When a person is injured in a car accident and does not have insurance, they often encounter many issues while filing a claim. One such tool plaintiffs will use in this instance is a letter of protection. In Florida, a letter of protection is used by a person without insurance to obtain medical services in exchange for part of their insurance settlement claim. In a recent Florida appellate court case, the court was tasked with deciding whether a jury could have determined the credibility of a doctor who testified under a letter of protection after he made conflicting statements. Ultimately, the court decided that there was enough information presented during the trial for a jury to be able to assess the doctor’s credibility.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered various injuries, most prominently her right knee, in a car accident. The driver who caused the accident did not have car insurance. Because of this, the plaintiff filed a claim against her uninsured motorist insurance, to cover the costs of the accident. The payment dispute was regarding a prior knee injury; the plaintiff had previously hurt her knee, which was rendered permanently injured after the accident. However, the plaintiff’s doctor claimed that the plaintiff had stopped feeling pain in her knee prior to the accident, while the defendant, as well as evidence from the plaintiff’s own testimony, indicated this was not true.

In this case, the plaintiff was given treatment under a letter of protection. While many are unaware of it, a letter of protection can be extremely beneficial to those without insurance. A letter of protection is a document sent by an attorney on a client’s behalf to a health-care provider when the client needs medical treatment but does not have insurance. Generally, the letter explains that the client is involved in a court case, and in exchange for deferred payment of medical services, the health-care provider will receive part of the settlement or award.

In light of COVID-19, many families have been heading out to explore the great outdoors for nature getaways and safer vacations that still adhere to social distancing guidelines. However, no one expects to get into a Florida accident while on a trip, especially one that has devastating consequences.

In a recent state appellate decision, a plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent against a Florida lodge and resort after an accident caused the individual’s death. Evidently, the defendant lodge offered a complimentary golf cart service to take guests around its property. However, the golf cart was prohibited from traveling on public roads beyond the lodge’s property, but could cross the main highway flanking the lodge grounds.

On the night of the accident, the decedent got into a golf cart and asked a bellman from the lodge to take him to a local store located on the other side of the highway. Consistent with lodge policy, the bellman drove the decedent through the lodge grounds and stopped to drop the decedent off. When the decedent exited the golf cart and attempted to cross the highway on foot, he was struck by a vehicle. Following the man’s death, the plaintiff argued that the defendant lodge undertook a duty to reasonably and safely transport the decedent and that they failed to warn him of potential dangers of the highway when he was dropped off. Following the trial, the lower court ruled in favor of the defendant and the plaintiff appealed.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion addressing, amongst other issues, whether negligence per se applied in the plaintiff’s lawsuit arising after an elevator accident. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the owner of a two-story building after suffering injuries when stepping onto an elevator in the building. Evidently, the elevator door opened while the elevator was still several inches below the door’s entrance, causing the plaintiff to fall into the elevator. The lawsuit alleged negligence, negligence per, and res ipsa loquitor. The defendant argued that they were not negligent, the plaintiff was comparatively negligent, and the incident was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed, arguing that the ruling was improper because there was a genuine issue of material fact. One of the primary issues on appeal was whether the building’s owner was liable under negligence per se.

Negligence per se is a legal theory that places liability on a defendant based on their violation of a statute. The theory applies in situations where the defendant engaged in conduct that violated a statute designed to protect against the type of injury the victim suffered. Historically, negligence per se decisions stem from the violation of a statute designed to protect a specific class of people, a violation of a penal statute, or a violation of statutes designed to protect the public.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a plaintiff’s appeal of a jury’s finding that she did not suffer permanent injury and was not entitled to pain and suffering damages.

The case arose after the defendant struck the plaintiff’s car as she was exiting the highway. According to the court’s opinion, at trial, the plaintiff, claimed that her emergency room doctor referred her to a treating chiropractor. However, the defendant introduced evidence that the plaintiff’s attorney referred her to her treating chiropractor. The jury returned a verdict awarding no damages for pain and suffering. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the trial court erred in allowing the defendant to argue that there was a referral relationship between the plaintiff’s attorney and chiropractor, resulting in a jury finding she was not entitled to pain and suffering damages.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced additional products to their ever-growing list of recalled hand sanitizers. According to a recent new report, the FDA explained that the majority of the recalled products lacked enough alcohol to adequately kills germs, or the products contained potentially deadly levels of wood alcohol. This information is particularly harrowing as there has been a record number of hand sanitizer sales in Florida because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These defective products can cause serious harm because of their ineffectiveness or exposure to potentially deadly ingredients.

As COVID-19 began to wreak havoc throughout the world, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advised the public to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and frequently wash hands. These measures should help reduce the number of germs that a person carries and transmits. In many cases, individuals use hand sanitizer at higher rates because it is a convenient option. This increased use only heightens the likelihood that individuals may experience the dangers of using these products.

The majority of effective hand sanitizers are comprised of ethyl alcohol; however, the recalled products contain methanol. Methanol is a type of wood alcohol that is regularly used to create pesticides, solvents, and fuel. This alcohol is typically toxic to humans and can be poisonous if consumed. Some products state that their hand sanitizers contain methanol; however, many others are mis-marked as containing ethyl alcohol. This mistake further complicates the recall as many consumers may not know if their product contains the dangerous ingredient.

As COVID-19 continues to spread quickly throughout Florida, the state’s nursing homes have witnessed unprecedented illnesses related to the virus. During this time, many nursing homes have failed to adequately protect their staff and residents from the viruses’ toll. Although some of the spread is uncontrollable, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides regulations and guidance on how these facilities can manage and stop outbreaks. Despite a broad range of immunity that nursing homes and manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) are given during this time, individuals who have suffered because of the negligence of these entities should contact a Florida product liability and nursing home negligence attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

Recently, a national news source reported on a controversy over inadequate PPE that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent to nursing homes to battle the COVID-19 crisis. Nursing homes and long-term assisted living facilities were included as benefactors of an effort to provide healthcare workers with PPE. However, when the facilities received the shipments, they were shocked to discover that the boxes included loose gloves in unmarked plastic bags, outdated surgical masks, and gowns without openings. Health officials advised these facilities to refrain from using the equipment as they are unaware of whether they have been compromised.

FEMA responded to the claims and stated that there were only a few shipments with outdated and ineffective equipment. Additionally, they claimed that the gear does meet federal standards but agreed to contact the private contractor and asked them to provide replacements. The PPE problem highlights the many issues that these facilities and their residents are facing with sufficiently managing the health and safety of their residents.

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