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The Element of Causation in Florida Personal Injury Cases

The typical Florida personal injury case requires the plaintiff to establish proof of four elements:  duty, breach, causation, and damages. In many cases, the defendant acknowledges that they breached a duty that was owed to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff suffered injuries, but they claim that their breach of the duty was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

To satisfy the causation element, a plaintiff must show that their injuries were the direct or natural consequence of the defendant’s actions. Importantly, a Florida personal injury plaintiff does not need to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the only cause of their injuries, only that it was a contributing factor. A plaintiff can even recover from a negligent defendant if the plaintiff shared responsibility for the accident resulting in their injuries.

Proving that the defendant’s actions were the legal cause of an injury can be tricky, depending on the circumstances. Generally, a plaintiff cannot rely on speculation and must present some evidence indicating that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. A recent decision issued by a state appellate court discusses the element of causation.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff hired the defendant to install a smoke detection system in her home. After the defendant installed the system, the plaintiff had to call the defendant several times because the system was not working. However, eventually, the plaintiff was satisfied that the system worked correctly.

A year after the system was installed in the plaintiff’s home, the plaintiff fell asleep on the couch while she was cooking chicken on the stove. The plaintiff woke up to a smoke-filled house. When the plaintiff saw that the chicken was the source of the smoke, she attempted to pour flour over the pan and turn off the stove at the same time. However, when the flour entered the pan, it bubbled over “like lava,” severely burning her hand. The plaintiff later discovered that the smoke detector in the kitchen was missing an essential piece, and it was not functional at the time of the fire.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, claiming that the defendant’s failure to correctly install the smoke detector in the kitchen resulted in her injuries. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that, had the defendant installed the detector correctly, she would have been alerted to the fire earlier, and she would have been able to turn off the burner safely.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument, granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The court held that the plaintiff presented no evidence suggesting that she would have avoided injury had the smoke detector been installed correctly. The court explained that the “cause” of the plaintiff’s injury was her decision to put flour atop the burning chicken while attempting to turn off the stove with her other hand. Without any expert testimony explaining that the result would have been different had the defendant installed the smoke detector correctly, the court explained, the plaintiff could not prove that the defendant’s actions were the cause of her injuries.

Have You Been Injured?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to the negligence of another person or business, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. At the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we represent accident victims in all types of negligence claims, including Florida product liability lawsuits, car accident cases, and medical malpractice claims. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for financial compensation, call 877-448-8585 to schedule your free consultation today.

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