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.
The 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.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, claiming that it was liable for his injuries because it failed to maintain a safe premise or, alternatively, failed to warn him about a known hazard. The plaintiff had a mechanical engineer testify that, given the rate of the leak and the size of the puddle, the leak had started at least 24 hours before the plaintiff’s fall.
The trial court refused to consider the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony, explaining that he was not an elevator expert and that his opinion was “weak.” The trial court then granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
The plaintiff appealed, arguing that it was an error for the lower court to refuse to consider the expert’s testimony. The appellate court agreed. The court explained that in a motion for summary judgment, witness credibility is not at issue. The question is whether sufficient evidence exists to create a material issue in the case. Here, the court held, the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony did create a material issue that should have been presented to the jury. Thus, the court held that dismissing the case was improper.
Have You Been a Victim of a South Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a slip-and-fall accident in the South Florida area, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Cecere Santana have extensive experience assisting clients with seeking the compensation they deserve. Call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
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Failure to Follow Procedural Rules May Result in Delay or Dismissal of Florida Personal Injury Cases, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 2, 2017.