Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability lawsuit requiring the court to determine if the lower court was correct to grant the defendant hardware store’s motion for summary judgement. The court ultimately concluded that each of the plaintiff’s two theories was sufficiently supported by the evidence such that they should proceed toward trial. Thus, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s case.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was shopping at the defendant hardware store when an object fell from a shelf behind him and struck him behind the knee. The plaintiff later filed a two-count personal injury lawsuit against the store.
The plaintiff testified that he did not see the item before it struck him. However, he could see it out of the corner of his eye as it was falling from the shelf. After the accident, the plaintiff testified that a store employee showed the plaintiff a trailer hitch and told him that it was the object that had struck him. A representative for the hardware store testified that large, heavy items are not stored on the upper shelves; however, the plaintiff claimed to have seen other trailer hitches up on the top shelf immediately after the incident.
The store had an expert testify that the plaintiff’s proposed theory of how the trailer hitch fell was factually impossible. The plaintiff also had an expert testify that his theory was “reasonable.”
The hardware store moved for summary judgment on each of the plaintiff’s claims, arguing that there was no evidence that the store had knowledge of the hazard. and the lower court granted the motion. The plaintiff then appealed to a higher court.
The Appellate Opinion
On appeal, the court held that the plaintiff’s claims should not have been dismissed and it reversed the lower court’s decision. The court explained that the plaintiff was making two similar, although distinct, claims. First, that the store was liable for negligently allowing a dangerous condition to exist. And second, that the store created the dangerous condition by storing the hitch high up on the shelf.
The court noted that only the first claim required the plaintiff to prove that the defendant had knowledge of the hazard. However, the court determined that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence for both claims to proceed.
The court noted that the plaintiff testified that he saw employees unloading trailer hitches about nine feet up on the shelf, out of the reach of customers. This, the court held, created a reasonable inference that a store employee placed the item on the shelf and thus knew of their presence.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Premises Liability Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a South Florida slip-and-fall accident, or any other kind of premises liability accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated South Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Cecere Santana have decades of collective experience representing injury victims and their family members in a wide range of personal injury matters, including complex premises liability cases. To learn more, call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation today.
See Additional Blog Posts:
Florida Court Holds Determination of Whether Grocery Store Had Knowledge of Spill Was a Question for the Jury, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, June 13, 2018.
Florida Roller Coaster Derails, What Are the Victims’ Rights?, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, published June 26, 2018.