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If Causation is not Established, a Florida Negligence Case Could be Dismissed by Directed Verdict

constructionNegligence forms the basis of most personal injury claims. In Florida work accident cases, Florida workers’ compensation law typically bars an employee from litigating against the employer. This is because workers’ compensation is intended to be the exclusive remedy for an accidental injury or death suffered on the job. However, in certain cases, Florida law allows employees to pursue a general negligence claim against an employer. Negligence is the failure of a defendant to use reasonable care, resulting in harm to the injured party.

In Broward Executive Builders, Inc., v. Liliana Zota, as Guardian of Mercedes Zota, the Fourth District Court of Appeal of Florida recently reversed a jury verdict in favor of an injured worker and directed a verdict for the construction company.

A worker by the name of Mercedes Zota fell and sustained injuries while painting a ceiling above a second-floor catwalk in a home that was under construction. At the time of the accident, Mercedes was using a stepladder and two scaffolds positioned upon the catwalk to reach and paint the ceiling. The evidence at trial showed that the catwalk lacked the required guardrails in place to comply with the guidelines set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The jury ultimately ruled in favor of the injured worker and against the construction company.

According to the court, directed verdicts in favor of a defendant must be granted only if no view of the evidence could support a verdict for the plaintiff, and the trial court therefore determined that no reasonable jury could render a verdict for that party. Put another way, a directed verdict is appropriate when the evidence and all inferences from the evidence, considered in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, support the movant’s case as a matter of law, and there is no evidence to rebut it.

In a construction accident case involving a fall, the plaintiff must establish the following:  i) a fall took place; ii) the fall took place from a substantial height; iii) the fall took place from a specific area of the catwalk; iv) sufficient guardrails would have prevented the fall; and v) the plaintiff suffered injuries as a result.

Therefore, the construction company could not be liable for negligence because the evidence failed to establish that the guardrails would have prevented the fall. The element of proximate causation is necessary to establish negligence. This element is a question of fact and is generally shown by the “more likely than not” standard. In other words, the plaintiff must show the defendant’s breach probably caused the plaintiff’s harm. Since the evidence here did not demonstrate how the worker fell and from where she fell, the court reversed the jury verdict and dismissed the claim.

If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence in a construction accident, a Miami attorney can help. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we proudly represent clients throughout South Florida. To discuss your case in more detail, do not hesitate to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or reach out to us online today.

More Blog Posts:

Subrogation in Florida Personal Injury Cases, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, June 22, 2016

Property Owner May Owe Duty of Care for Landscaped Areas in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, June 22, 2016

Roundabout Accidents in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, June 22, 2016