Who Can Be Held Liable in Florida Slip-and-Fall Accidents?

In March, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case raising an interesting issue involving the liability of a security company. The case presents an interesting issue for Florida accident victims because it required the court to determine if the plaintiff could hold the defendant security company liable for injuries she sustained while at a shopping mall. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff could not do so because she was not a third-party beneficiary of the contract between the mall and the defendant security company.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her husband were shopping at the mall when the plaintiff tripped and fell on a rubber mat. The plaintiff claimed that the mat was protruding from underneath a desk immediately before the secured entrance. At the time of the plaintiff’s fall, an employee of the defendant security company was sitting at the desk. The plaintiff’s husband took pictures of the mat after his wife’s fall, and it appeared to be curled up at the edges.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against several parties, including the security company. The defendant claimed that it owed her no duty of care because it did not control the area where the plaintiff fell and that the plaintiff was not a third-party beneficiary of the contract with the mall. That contract provided that the defendant would, among other things, “ensure that prompt action is taken to prevent or minimize losses, accidents, fires, property damages, safety hazards and security incidents.” The lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments and affirmed the dismissal of her claims. The court first held that the defendant security company did not own or control the area where the plaintiff fell. Therefore, the defendant did not owe the plaintiff a duty to protect her from this type of harm.

The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the contract between the defendant and the mall created an “express contractual duty to keep the premises safe for invitees.” The third-party beneficiary doctrine allows for a third party to enforce the terms of a contract if it is clear that the third-party was the intended beneficiary of the contract. To support a finding of third-party liability, it must be “apparent from the language of the agreement that the contracting parties intended to confer a direct benefit upon the plaintiff to protect [her] from physical injury.”

Here, the court held that the plaintiff was not a third-party beneficiary of the contract. The court reasoned that the agreement between the defendant and the mall was one to provide security services and to protect the mall from losses and liabilities, rather than to ensure the safety of guests. Thus, the court concluded that the terms of the agreement were not focused on conferring a benefit to the plaintiff.

Consult with a Dedicated Florida Injury Lawyer

If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the nature of the accident, there may be multiple responsible parties. The dedicated injury lawyers at Friedman Rodman & Frank have extensive experience handling all types of Florida injury claims, including slip-and-fall accidents, and provide free consultations to all prospective clients. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to speak with an attorney today.

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