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Who is Liable When Injured by Heavy Machinery?

Recently, the state’s supreme court issued a written opinion in a Florida personal injury case discussing an interesting aspect of Florida law that allows for an accident victim to hold the owners of dangerous instrumentalities liable for their injuries under certain circumstances. This application of the vicarious liability doctrine is somewhat unique to Florida and is important for Florida injury victims to understand, as it may provide an additional means of recovery.

Vicarious Liability and Dangerous Instrumentalities

Under Florida law, the owners of dangerous instrumentalities can be held vicariously liable for any injuries that are caused by the instrumentality regardless of another’s fault in bringing about the accident. Courts consider several factors when determining if something is a dangerous instrumentality, including:

  • whether the instrumentality is a motor vehicle;
  • whether the instrumentality is used near the public;
  • whether the dangers presented by the instrumentality are unique; and
  • how the legislature has chosen to regulate the instrumentality.

The Case Facts

According to the opinion of the court, the plaintiff was an independent contractor who was hired by a hauling company to help clear out a lot that was full of debris. To assist in clearing the lot, the hauling company obtained a large construction loader, which was capable of lifting large items into a dumpster-like container that could then be removed from the property.

As the plaintiff was assisting in clearing the lot, an employee of the hauling company dropped a stump into the container as the plaintiff was inside. The stump landed on the plaintiff’s hand, requiring the amputation of his finger. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit focused on trying to obtain compensation from the company that leased the loader to the hauling construction company.

The plaintiff argued that the construction loader was a dangerous instrumentality and thus, the owner of the loader was liable for his injuries. The lower court determined that the construction loader was not a dangerous instrumentality and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision and found that the construction loader was a dangerous instrumentality as a matter of law. The court first explained that construction loaders are considered to be “vehicles” because they are motorized, and can be made to be mobile much like a forklift or farm tractor. The court also noted that construction loaders pose unique dangers in that they are large machines which are often used on or near public streets, can weigh over 8,000 pounds, and are capable of lifting over 2,000 pounds into the air. Taking all this into account, the court determined that “the loader is a serious piece of machinery with the capacity to do great harm.”

Were You Injured by a Piece of Dangerous Machinery?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida workplace accident or any other accident that was due to dangerous equipment or machinery, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. The dedicated South Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Cecere Santana have decades of experience representing injury victims in all types of personal injury claims, including those involving dangerous instrumentalities. To learn more call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation.

See Additional Blog Posts:

In Drunk Driving Accidents, Bar May Also be Responsible, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, October 9, 2018.

The Importance of Uninsured Motorist Protection in Florida, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, published October 1, 2018.

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