In a recent case, the District Court of Appeals of the State of Florida First District issued an opinion in an appeal involving a duty to warn or duty of reasonable care liability action between a plaintiff who was a visitor in a hospital, and the defendant, the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH). The suit resulted from an incident where the plaintiff slipped on some liquid as she exited an elevator on the ground floor and sustained injuries that required her to be hospitalized.

The trial court found in favor of the defendant, granting summary judgment and finding that the plaintiff failed to show that a TMH employee knew that he was creating a dangerous condition. On appeal, the court held that there was no material fact dispute. As the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient evidence the appellate court ruled that no reasonable jury could find for the plaintiff at trial and summary judgment for TMH was the correct ruling.

During the trial, the plaintiff advanced a theory that she slipped on water left in the elevator by a stretcher pushed out of the elevator by TMH employees immediately before she entered. The plaintiff’s complaint further contended that TMH negligently maintained its premises and allowed a dangerous condition to persist without warning her or taking steps to ameliorate the condition. She sought compensation for the damage she suffered from the slip-and-fall at TMH. The trial court found that the plaintiff failed to present substantive evidence from which a jury reasonably could infer that the TMH employees knew of the dripping water, or that the employees could have done anything to correct the unsafe conditions in the short time that passed between the stretcher coming off the elevator and her entering it. The trial court granted the defendant’s request for summary judgment and the plaintiff’s appeal followed.

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In a recent case, the Third District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a personal injury claim between the Appellants, the plaintiff, and the Appellee, Lawson Industries, Inc., (Lawson). The plaintiff sued Lawson after he sustained injuries when he attempted to unload a shipment of heavy-impact windows and doors that were delivered by Lawson’s employee and placed on the plaintiff’s employer’s forklift. The impact doors in the shipment toppled off the forklift and onto the plaintiff when he removed the windows that were leaning against the impact doors. The court granted Lawson’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

Lawson is a Miami-Dade impact window and door manufacturer. PMYY Leon Corporation, Inc. (PMYY) is the plaintiff’s employer and a local retailer that ordered impact windows and doors from Lawson. The impact doors and windows had been offloaded onto PMYY’s forklift the day prior to the incident by a Lawson’s delivery truck driver. On the day of the delivery, PMYY’s principal assisted the Lawson’s delivery truck driver in moving the shipment from the truck onto the PMYY forklift. During deposition, the delivery truck driver did not recall strapping the doors onto the forklift rack because that was not his job. The delivery truck driver also did not recall whether the forklift operator strapped the load down, but testified that to do so was PMYY’s usual practice. The delivery truck driver left the PMYY premises after the delivery. PMYY’s principal stated during his deposition that he strapped the shipment to the pallet rack on the forklift. After that he stated that he drove the forklift into the PMYY warehouse for overnight storage.

The plaintiff testified at his deposition that on the morning of the incident, he entered the warehouse and began to unload the forklift shipment himself, and at the time observed that there were no straps in place. The plaintiff later testified that he failed to realize that safety strapping was missing until the doors fell on him. During his deposition, the plaintiff stated that once he unloaded the lighter windows from the front of the heavier impact doors, the doors fell forward, causing him injuries. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff filed suit against Lawson, asserting one count of negligence, asserting that Lawson improperly loaded the shipment onto PMYY’s forklift, which ultimately led to his injuries.

Recently, the district court of appeals for the State of Florida Sixth District issued an opinion in an appeal involving a negligence claim by the appellee, the plaintiff, against the appellants, Hernando J. Lancheros and VL Auto Transport, Inc. The appellee sued the appellants claiming they negligently injured him in a car accident. The appellants conceded fault, and the matter proceeded to trial solely on the issue of causation and damages. The appellee stated that he suffered a permanent injury to his back and that the injury was caused by the car accident in question. The appellants contended that the appellee’s injuries stemmed from a pre-existing condition and were not caused by the car accident. At trial, the court improperly directed a verdict on causation. On appeal, the appellate court reversed the lower court decision, remanding the case for a new trial.

Facts of the Case

The appellee, who was twenty-four when the accident happened, testified that he had rowed crew competitively since he was a teenager. He further acknowledged that he visited a chiropractor two times before the accident for back pain due to either weight training or rowing crew. Following the car accident, the appellee did not seek treatment for his back either at the scene or in the aftermath of the accident. He did not obtain x-rays or an MRI on his back in the immediate days after the crash. The appellee waited eighteen days before going to a chiropractor for what he described as lingering back pain after the initial soreness from the accident faded.

Accidents involving both cars and bicycles are increasingly common. According to People Powered Movement (PPM), a bike and walking alliance, Florida had 5,952 bicycle collisions in 2021. Such crashes caused 5,574 injuries and 169 deaths. PPM further found that in Florida, bicycle accidents are overwhelmingly caused by automobile drivers. Of the 169 fatal bike accidents in Florida in 2021, law enforcement officers found that automobile drivers were responsible for 140 of them. In total, that means that car drivers were responsible for approximately 83% of all fatal bicycle accidents in Florida in 2021. PPM similarly found that of the 759 bicycle accidents that resulted in life-threatening injuries and the 4,815 accidents resulting in minor injuries, Florida law enforcement officers placed the blame on automobile drivers in 76% of the serious accidents and 69% of the minor accidents.

Bike accidents result in a high percentage of fatalities for a number of reasons. Bicycles and other open-air vehicles expose the rider to greater risk during collisions as they are often thrown clear of the vehicle during a crash, creating more violent landings. Additionally, many bicycle riders do not use proper headwear, resulting in head trauma during collisions. Any impact to a person’s head is disproportionately likely to result in fatal injuries, further increasing the risk of death in bike accidents. A recently published news report detailed a fatal crash between a bicycle and an SUV crash in Bradenton, Florida, earlier this month.

According to a recently published news report, a 33-year-old man died when an SUV crashed into his bicycle. The man was riding his bicycle after midnight on Wednesday, August 9, when an SUV driven by a 23-year-old man struck the bike. A Florida Highway Patrol report stated that the bike rider was not wearing a helmet at the time and was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Law enforcement reports state that both the SUV and the bicyclist were traveling east on State Road 64 when the crash occurred, throwing the rider onto the bridge’s concrete surface before he collided with a raised curb.

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. OSHA is a federal agency that is part of the larger federal Department of Labor. The administrator for OSHA is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA’s administrator answers to the Secretary of Labor, who is a member of the cabinet of the President of the United States.

Most Frequently Cited OSHA Standards

Certain types of workplace injuries attract more attention than others. OSHA estimates that more stringent training policies could prevent approximately 70% of all forklift accidents in the United States. OSHA also projects that in total, between 35,000 and 62,000 forklift injuries occur each year. However, the ten OSHA standards that are cited the most frequently might surprise you.

The following ten OSHA standards were the most frequently cited standards by Federal OSHA in fiscal year 2022 (October 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022): (1) Fall Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501); (2) Hazard Communication, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200); (3) Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053); (4) Respiratory Protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134); (5) Scaffolding, construction (29 CFR 1926.451); (6) Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147); (7) Powered Industrial Trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178); (8) Fall Protection Training, construction (29 CFR 1926.503); (9) Eye and Face Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.102); (10) Machinery and Machine Guarding, general industry (29 CFR 1910.212).

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Recently, the district court of appeals for the State of Florida Fourth District issued an opinion in an appeal involving a negligence claim by the appellee, the plaintiff, against the appellant, Napleton’s North Palm Auto Park, Inc., (the Dealership). The plaintiff sued the Dealership after an employee (Employee) of the Dealership hit the plaintiff’s parked car while allegedly intoxicated during his shift, alleging negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of the Dealership’s employee. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend her complaint to add a punitive damages claim.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and the Employee were both employed by the Dealership. The Employee maintains that on the day of the alleged incident, he had “a couple drinks” while on his lunch break at home before he returned to work. That evening the Employee “brushed” alongside the plaintiff’s parked car as he was moving his car from an employee lot across the street to a closer parking lot. The Employee was later arrested and would enter a guilty plea to a DUI charge and his employment was terminated on the day of the accident.

The plaintiff then sued the Dealership for negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of the Employee. She alleged that the Dealership knew or should have known that the Employee had been found guilty of a DUI offense prior to hiring him, and the Dealership knew or should have known that the Employee consumed alcohol during work hours. The plaintiff then moved to amend her complaint, adding a claim for punitive damages. In doing so, she highlighted three events to establish the Dealership’s knowledge of the Employee’s history of driving while intoxicated: (1) the Employee’s prior DUI conviction in 2006; (2) the Dealership’s discipline of the Employee in January 2020 based on another employee’s suspicion of the Employee being intoxicated while on the clock; and (3) the assistant manager’s observation that the Employee was acting “off” and “loopy.”

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In a recent case, the First District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a claim for compensability of hypertension and heart disease brought under section 112.18, Florida Statutes (2019), commonly known as the “heart-lung statute.” The appellant, a law enforcement officer, filed a claim for compensation under the heart-lung statute and was denied by his employer, Florida Highway Patrol, which is the appellee. The Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) denied the appellant’s claim, finding that he failed to satisfy “disability,” a prerequisite for compensability of occupational disease under the law. After the denial, the appellant appealed the decision.

The appellant was hired by the Florida Highway Patrol in 2001 after undergoing a pre-employment physical. In 2008, he was diagnosed with hypertension after consulting a doctor for headaches and redness in the face he was experiencing. At that point, the appellant was restricted from working for a few days and prescribed medication. He did not file workers’ compensation paperwork and did not pursue a workers’ compensation claim. Then in early 2019, while visiting a hospital to investigate a vehicle crash, the appellant asked a nurse to check his blood pressure. The nurse informed him that his blood pressure was high, and recommended he consult a doctor.

The next day, the appellant met with his personal doctor and alerted his employer. The employer then scheduled an appointment for him with a cardiologist, Dr. Gupta, for evaluation. At his first appointment with Dr. Gupta, his blood pressure was 160/96, and described by the doctor as “uncontrolled.” Dr. Gupta diagnosed him with hypertension and obesity, changing his medication and recommending an echocardiogram (EKG). At that point, Dr. Gupta did not take him out of work, assign work restrictions, or refer him to the hospital. The appellant returned to Dr. Gupta in February for his EKG and planned to report to work immediately after the appointment. Dr. Gupta changed his medication again, counseled him on obesity and lifestyle changes, and recommended a stress test. He also requested that Friesen remain in the waiting room for ten to fifteen minutes for the medication to take effect and lower his blood pressure. The appellant waited fifteen minutes and his blood pressure improved. Again, no work restrictions were assigned. After continuing to work full time, in mid-February, his employer issued a Notice of Denial, asserting that hypertension or heart disease must be accompanied by disability to be compensable. The appellant then filed a Petition for Benefits, requesting workers’ compensation benefits.

In a recent case, the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida Fifth District issued an opinion in an appeal involving a duty to warn or duty of reasonable care premise liability action between a plaintiff that was a customer entering a store, and the defendant, the company operating the store, Panera. The suit resulted from an incident where the plaintiff tripped and fell on a weighted sign base as she was entering the Panera location.

The trial court found in favor of the defendant granting summary judgment, finding that there was no concealed peril that would have triggered a duty to warn, and, further, that the plaintiff failed to look down, which caused her to trip and fall on the base. In finding that the base she tripped on was open and obvious, the court ruled that the restaurant was not liable for injuries and harm. In Florida, the open and obvious doctrine provides that landowners are not liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions of their land when the danger is known or obvious unless the landowner would anticipate those injuries.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that in many open and obvious cases, the conditions are inherent to the landscape, such as uneven pavement or traffic bumps, which is not the case in this claim. The appellate court agreed, holding that the sign base is not so common as to be encountered by people on a daily basis. As a result, the appeals court ruled that there was an issue of material fact present, reversing the trial court decision.

In a recent appeals case, the District Court of Appeals of the State of Florida Fifth District produced an opinion for an appeal involving sovereign immunity for the city of Winter Park in a vicarious liability case involving an off-duty police officer. The plaintiff, a driver involved in the car accident with the police officer, sued the defendant, the city of Winter Park, alleging that Winter Park was vicariously liable for the officer’s purportedly negligent driving. The city of Winter Park moved for summary judgment on sovereign immunity grounds at trial. Following the completion of the discovery process, the trial court denied the motion for summary judgment, finding that the issue of whether the officer was within the scope of his employment was a fact question. Winter Park then filed a timely appeal.

The incident in question occurred on June 17, 2019, when Officer Rojas, a police officer in Winter Park, was involved in a car accident in Casselberry, a municipality in Seminole County. Officer Rojas receives a “take-home” patrol vehicle to drive to and from work and for use during each shift. On the day of the accident, Officer Rojas testified that his shift ended at 3:00 p.m. and shortly thereafter, he left the police station in his take-home patrol vehicle. Roughly 30 minutes after his shift ended, he was involved in a car accident along his customary route home.

The crash occurred in Casselberry, which is beyond the Winter Park city limits. Officer Rojas was not performing any duties as a police officer following the end of his shift, though he was in his Winter Park police uniform. Ultimately, the trial court ruled that the question of if Officer Rojas was within the scope of his employment was a disputed issue of material fact for a jury to resolve. Winter Park appealed, maintaining that it is entitled to sovereign immunity as a matter of law.

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In 2021, Florida experienced a total of 401,533 car crashes, including 3,445 fatal accidents and 163,961 crashes resulting in injuries. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), there have already been 146,074 vehicle crashes in Florida this year. The FLHSMV states that those accidents have resulted in 93,662 total injuries and 1,256 deaths. As vehicle accidents and crashes continue to occur throughout Florida, it is vital to be aware of the car accident laws in effect within the state.

Minimum Insurance Requirement

Florida does not require drivers to have bodily injury liability insurance coverage. This is uncommon as the majority of states require this type of coverage. Bodily injury liability insurance covers injury-related losses that a policyholder causes to other motorists if the policyholder is deemed responsible for the accident. Instead of requiring bodily injury liability insurance, Florida requires motorists to have a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection coverage and a minimum of $10,000 in property damage liability coverage. Personal injury protection coverage pays for a policyholder’s own losses following an injury from a collision while property damage liability coverage addresses property damage that the policyholder causes others in a collision.

Mandatory Police Reporting

There is a common misconception that automobile accidents must always be reported to the police. In Florida, drivers involved in a collision are required to report a crash to policy only if one of the following two things are true: (1) the crash caused a minimum of $500 in vehicle or property damage, or (2) the crash caused injury or death. If a crash does not meet either of those criteria, drivers may self-complete a “Driver Report of Traffic Crash Report” or a “Driver Exchange of Information” as detailed by the FLHSMV.

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