Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability case brought by a woman who slipped and fell while in a Whole Foods grocery store. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient to survive a summary judgment challenge regarding the store’s knowledge of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s fall.

Grocery Store AisleUltimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff did present sufficient evidence to give rise to a material issue of fact. Thus, the court held that summary judgment was not proper.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was shopping in a Whole Foods grocery store when she slipped and fell near the self-service food section. The plaintiff, through an interpreter, explained that she was not in a rush at the time and did not see the substance prior to her fall. She claimed that she stepped on a dirty, greasy area of the floor, which caused her to fall. The plaintiff also explained that it seemed as though other people had stepped in the substance. The plaintiff’s son testified as well, consistently with his mother.

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In Florida, lawmakers have determined that lawsuits bringing claims of medical malpractice must comply with additional requirements that are not necessary in Florida personal injury cases bringing claims under a traditional theory of negligence. In so doing, lawmakers put courts in the position of determining which cases should be classified as “medical malpractice cases” and thus be subject to the additional requirements.

Knee X-RayA recent decision issued by the Florida Supreme Court provides some much-needed guidance for how courts should sort out personal injury cases that lie on the line between traditional negligence and medical malpractice.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the aunt of a student at a school for the deaf. The student was seriously injured when she was placed in a hold by staff and taken to the ground after staff determined that she was being non-compliant. As a result of her injuries, the student’s left leg was amputated below the knee.

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When someone slips and falls on the property of another party, they may be entitled to recover compensation for the injuries they sustained as a result of the fall through a South Florida premises liability lawsuit. In order to prove a slip-and-fall case in Florida, certain elements must be met, or the court can dismiss the case upon the defendant landowner’s motion.

Wet Floor SignPremises liability cases are based on the theory of negligence, which allows an accident victim to recover damages from the defendant if they can establish that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, which was violated by some act or omission of the defendant. Furthermore, the plaintiff must establish that it was the defendant’s alleged negligence that caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

In regard to the “breach” element, Florida lawmakers have enacted a statute to assist courts in determining if a defendant landowner breached a duty they owed to a visitor. Florida statute 768.0755 applies to cases in which a plaintiff is injured after slipping on a “transitory foreign substance,” and it requires the plaintiff to establish that the landowner have “actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it.”

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability lawsuit that arose after the plaintiff fell off an examination table in the defendant doctor’s office. The court was tasked with determining if the plaintiff’s lawsuit should be dismissed because she failed to comply with the applicable statute of limitations. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s lawsuit was not a “medical malpractice” lawsuit as defined by the statute and that her claim need not comply with the stricter statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits.

Doctor's OfficeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was seeing the defendant doctor so that he could remove a catheter. When the doctor came into the examination room, he instructed the plaintiff to climb onto the examination table. He then pulled out a stool so that she could more easily get atop the table. The plaintiff safely climbed onto the table, and the doctor performed the procedure without any complications.

After the procedure, the doctor told the plaintiff to go to the front desk and make a follow-up appointment the following week. The doctor then left the examination room without pulling out the stool to help the plaintiff descend off the table. The plaintiff attempted to get off the table but fell as she did so.

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The Florida state government wants to encourage people to be active and to enjoy the beautiful Florida weather by rollerblading, skateboarding, mountain biking, or engaging in other recreational activities. However, the government seemed to notice that there were becoming fewer and fewer places to partake in these activities because landowners were prohibiting people from engaging in these recreational activities on their land, due to the liability they may face if someone is injured.

Skate ParkThe Florida Legislature’s solution was to pass Florida Statute 316.0085, which provides immunity to certain landowners who open up their property for the public’s use. While there are other recreational use statutes in Florida, this particular statute pertains to rollerblading, skateboarding, mountain biking, and paintballing.

The statute provides broad immunity to government landowners, stating that no government entity or public employee can be held liable for injuries sustained by someone who is rollerblading, skateboarding, mountain biking, or paintballing on government property. At first glance, it would seem that anyone who is injured while engaging in any of those activities would not be able to seek compensation for their injuries; however, that is not necessarily the case.

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Premises liability claims are lawsuits brought against a property owner who negligently fails to keep their property in a safe condition, violating a duty of care owed to the plaintiff. Premises liability describes a broad range of cases, extending from slip-and-fall accidents to chemical exposure cases.

Swimming PoolChlorine Gas Exposure

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chlorine is an element used in industrial settings, as well as household products such as bleach. It is often used in swimming pools to kill bacteria. Chlorine is sometimes in the form of a poisonous gas, which can be recognized by its pungent, irritating odor, similar to bleach. It is yellow-green in color. When chlorine gas is released into the air, a person can be exposed through skin contract or eye contact, or through breathing air that contains chlorine.

People who are exposed to high levels of chlorine can experience coughing, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, blurred vision, blisters, fluid in the lungs, wheezing, watery eyes, and a burning sensation in the nose, throat, and eyes. Breathing in high concentrations of chlorine can lead to long-term complications, such as fluid in the lungs following the exposure.

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Last month, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who tripped and fell on an unsecured cord while rehearsing with a church band. The court had to determine if the plaintiff’s potential knowledge of the hazard – having been playing with the band for several years – resulted in his expressly assuming any risk of injury. Ultimately, the court concluded that under Florida law, the doctrine of express assumption of the risk applies only in certain limited situations, one of which was not present in the plaintiff’s case.

Aux CableThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff joined the defendant church in 2008. In the next year, he started playing in the church band. For the next two years, there were no issues; however, in 2011, the plaintiff tripped and fell on the bass guitarist’s electrical cord. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the church, claiming that the church was negligent in failing to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.

The church argued that it should not be held liable because the plaintiff knew or should have known about the dangerous condition and assumed the risk of injury by performing on stage for the past two years. The trial court agreed, finding that the plaintiff expressly assumed any risk of injury, and dismissed the case.

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Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a woman who tripped on a water valve while walking on a public road. The appeal resulted from a lower court decision finding that the water company did not have a duty to maintain the asphalt area around the valve, which had become separated from the valve, resulting in the valve sticking up above ground level. However, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision, holding that the water company may still have a duty to maintain the valve, even if the accident was caused in part by the surrounding asphalt becoming separated from the valve.

Cracked AsphaltThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking on a public road when she tripped and fell on a water valve cover that was protruding from the street’s surface. As a result of her fall, the plaintiff sustained injuries and filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the water company as well as the city that owned the road. The plaintiff argued that the water company had a duty to keep the valve in safe condition and to prevent it from becoming a hazard to pedestrians, such as herself.

At trial, evidence was presented that showed the valve had separated from the surrounding asphalt, causing the valve to protrude above ground level. After the accident, the water company leveled the asphalt around the valve so that further injuries would not occur.

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The Second District Court of Appeals recently issued a written opinion in a premises liability case, reversing a lower court’s ruling that had dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit based on a lack of evidence that the defendant knew or should have known about the hazard that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s fall. Specifically, the appellate court held that the lower court was improper to base its decision on the credibility of the plaintiff’s expert witness.

ElevatorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff slipped and fell after he stepped in a puddle of oil that had formed near an elevator on the defendant’s property. The plaintiff explained that he did not see the puddle before he stepped in it, but after he got up, he noticed that it was coming from underneath the door to the elevator service closet.

The plaintiff’s fall was reported, and the defendant called an elevator technician to fix the leak. The technician determined that the leak was due to a faulty seal and that the oil was dripping at the rate of one drip every two seconds. The technician noted that the puddle was approximately four feet by five feet, and about a quarter of an inch deep. The technician did not know how long the puddle had been there; however, the elevator had been serviced three days before, and there was no leak at that time.

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Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case, reversing the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The case required the court determine if a plaintiff can still recover for injuries under a premises liability theory where the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s fall was “obvious.” The court determined that in such cases, summary judgment in favor of the defense is not appropriate.

ATM The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a customer of the defendant bank who visited the bank to make a deposit through the drive-thru window. When she arrived, the bank was closed, so she decided to make the deposit at the bank’s outdoor ATM. However, the area around the ATM was under construction. The plaintiff testified that there was a sign in front of the ATM with an arrow to go around the barricade. However, when she walked around the barricade she stepped into a “pot hole,” falling to the ground. As a result of her fall, the plaintiff fractured her foot and leg, and injured her neck and back.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the bank, as well as the construction companies that were responsible for completing the work around the ATM. The plaintiff made two claims: first, that the bank was liable under a failure-to-warn theory, and second, that the bank was liable under a failure-to-maintain theory.

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