Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability case requiring the court to determine if the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to survive a defense motion for summary judgment. Although the trial court granted the defendant’s motion, finding that the plaintiff presented insufficient evidence that the defendant was aware of the hazard that caused his fall, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision based on the plaintiff’s own testimony.
Summary judgment is a stage in many Florida personal injury cases in which one or both parties ask the judge to rule in their favor prior to trial. A judge will grant a party’s motion for summary judgment only when there are no contested issues of fact and, after considering the uncontested evidence, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Essentially this means that after taking into account the uncontested evidence, the non-moving party would not be able to prevail at trial.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was seriously injured when a heavy object fell and struck him in the back of the leg while he was shopping in the defendant hardware store. After the accident, the plaintiff was told by an employee that the object that hit him was a trailer hitch that had fallen from high up on the shelf. The plaintiff testified that after the accident, he saw employees stacking trailer hitches high up on the shelves.
The defendant moved for summary judgment at trial, arguing that the plaintiff’s version of the events was not possible and also that he failed to present any evidence that the store was aware of the presence of the hazard that caused his fall. A representative for the defendant claimed that heavy objects are never kept high up on the shelves. In turn, the plaintiff presented an expert who testified that the plaintiff’s version of events was “reasonable.” The trial court, however, agreed with the defendant and granted the defendant’s motion. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the case was reversed. The court explained that the plaintiff’s testimony that he saw store employees stacking items similar to the one that caused his injury created a material issue of fact that needed to be resolved by a jury. In other words, both parties’ versions of the events could not be reconciled without accepting one party’s version over the other’s. This, the court explained, created an issue of fact which was not appropriately resolved through a motion for summary judgement. Thus, the court ordered the case to proceed to trial.
Have You Been Injured on Another’s Property?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on another’s property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a South Florida premises liability lawsuit. Florida slip-and-fall lawsuits may seem straightforward at first glance, but complex issues often arise, potentially requiring an expert witness to explain certain issues to the jury. At the South Florida personal injury law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank, we have decades of experience handling all types of Florida injury claims, and know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalves. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with one of our dedicated Florida accident lawyers.
More Blog Posts:
Accident Victim’s Failure to Provide Immediate Notice of Case May Preclude Recovery, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 19, 2017.
Court Limits Employer’s Duty in Recent Case Stemming from Pedestrian-Railroad Fatality, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 5, 2018.