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Florida Appellate Court Determines Water Company May Be Liable for Condition of Pavement Surrounding In-Ground Valve

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.

The 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.

The water company filed a pre-trial motion, asking the court to prevent the jury from hearing that it voluntarily reapplied the asphalt to level the road surface. The court granted the water company’s motion and then, upon motion, dismissed the case, finding that the water company did not have a duty to maintain the area around the valve.

The Appellate Opinion

The appellate court reversed the lower court on two important points. First, the court held that it was improper for the lower court to exclude evidence that the water company fixed the area around the valve. The court explained that evidence of “subsequent remedial measures” is normally not permitted to prove liability; however, here, the evidence was presented to show ownership. Thus, the evidence should have been admitted.

Second, the appellate court determined that, although the accident may have occurred in part due to the separated asphalt around the valve, that does not excuse the water company from any liability. As a result, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, permitting the plaintiff’s case to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a South Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the nature of the case, you may be entitled to amounts for your past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and any pain and suffering you endured as a result of the accident. The skilled personal injury attorneys at Cecere Santana have decades of collective experience assisting their injured clients with seeking the compensation they deserve. Call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Determining the Liability of Children for Accidents in Florida, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 27, 2017.

Florida Appellate Court Reverses Lower Court’s Decision, Allowing Premises Liability Case To Proceed to Trial, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 10, 2017.

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