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Florida Court Discusses and Limits “Assumption of the Risk” Doctrine

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.

The 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.

The Case Is Reversed on Appeal

On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision. The court explained that it had abandoned the doctrine of express assumption of the risk in all but a very few limited circumstances. Specifically, express assumption of the risk is only appropriate when there is an express contract agreeing not to sue or when an injury is sustained while engaging in contact sports.

Here, the plaintiff’s activity in playing in a church band did not fit within either category in which express assumption of the risk is appropriate. However, the court noted that the plaintiff may have implicitly assumed some of the risks involved. This determination, the court held, was one that needed to be made by a jury, rather than a judge, and it should be factored into the comparative fault analysis. Thus, if the jury finds that the plaintiff knew or should have known about the unsecured cord, it is free to award him reduced damages based on his own percent of fault.

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. It is important to keep in mind, however, that various defenses may exist, and it is best to be prepared for what may lie ahead. The skilled injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Cecere Santana have extensive experience handling a wide range of premises liability cases, and we have a firm understanding of the various nuances in this area of law. Call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated South Florida 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 Teen Killed in Hit-and-Run DUI Accident, Several Others Injured, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 11, 2017.

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