Articles Posted in Florida Personal Injury Caselaw

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Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a plaintiff’s appeal stemming from a premises liability lawsuit. The case arose after a customer spilled laundry detergent near a checkout counter at a Dollar General. A store manager and employee were working at the register when the spill occurred. The manager went to get cleaning supplies and left the employee to assist customers in checking out. About a minute later, the plaintiff entered the store and slipped on the detergent, sustaining serious injuries.

The plaintiff argued that the defendant was negligent because they did not safely maintain their premises or warn him of potential hazards. The defendant moved for summary judgment claiming that it did not breach its duty because there was not enough time between the spill and fall to remedy the hazard.

Under Florida law, courts reviewing summary judgment motions must draw all inferences in favor of the plaintiff against whom the order is sought. Courts can only grant these motions when there are no disputes regarding any genuine issues of material fact. In instances where a defendant moves for summary judgment, the defendant must show that it did not breach any duty to the plaintiff. In Florida, business owners owe a duty to maintain their premises in a safe condition and warn customers of any dangers it knew about, or should have known about.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit against a hospitality company. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

According to the court’s opinion, the resort provided guests with a shuttle service to take them to various locations within two miles of the lodge, including across U.S. Highway 1. Additionally, it provided guests with a golf cart service to take guests around the property; however, the golf carts were prohibited from traveling on public roads. There was an exception that allowed the golf cart to cross Old Highway 1 to pick up and drop off guests on the east side of U.S. Highway 1.

The case involved a guest at the hotel lodge who got into a golf cart and asked a staff member for a ride. The staff member agreed, but did not know the man’s destination. However, while they were in the cart, the man asked the staff member to take him to the trading post on U.S Highway 1. Following the hotel’s policy, the staff member drove the guest across Old Highway 1, about twenty feet from U.S. Highway 1. As the guest was exiting the golf cart, a vehicle hit him. He died shortly after filing a negligence lawsuit against the vehicle driver and lodge. The executor of the man’s estate amended the complaint to assert a wrongful death claim against the defendants.

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Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion in an appeal stemming from a woman’s claim for uninsured/underinsured(UM) coverage against her insurance company. The woman suffered injuries in a car accident and subsequently filed a negligence claim against the at-fault driver, the owner of the vehicle, as well as a UM claim against her insurance provider. After settling the claims with the driver and car owner, the case proceeded against her insurance provider. The trial court granted the woman’s motion for a directed verdict. The insurance company appealed, arguing that a directed verdict was inappropriate and the case should proceed to a jury trial.

The woman argued that she suffered several injuries due to the accident, but the specific issue in the appeal revolves around injuries to her left knee. The evidence indicates that the woman suffered injuries to her knee while attending the Naval Academy and again while walking. About two months before the accident, the woman underwent surgery for a torn meniscus. She reported that her knee was improving until the car accident. The woman sought treatment from numerous doctors until she found one that would treat her under a letter of protection.

A letter of protection is an agreement between a patient who does not have insurance and a health-care provider. This document provides that the medical provider agrees to a deferred payment while the client is involved in a court case. In most cases, the patient is still responsible for the provider’s bill, regardless of the outcome of their lawsuit.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida slip and fall case involving a woman who fell while at a grocery store. The case required the court to determine if the woman presented sufficient evidence to show that the store had constructive knowledge of the hazard that caused her fall. Ultimately, the court found that the plaintiff could not succeed in her claim because the evidence did not suggest that the danger was present for a sufficient period of time to impute constructive knowledge of the hazard to the store.

Florida slip and fall cases are based on the legal theory of negligence. Thus, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant knew or should have known about the hazard. If a defendant is entirely unaware of a hazard, courts will generally not find that the defendant was negligent in failing to address the risk. There are two ways to prove a defendant’s knowledge of the hazard. The first is by showing that the defendant had actual knowledge of the hazard. This may be demonstrated by submitting a previous customer complaint about a hazard.

Constructive knowledge is the other way that a plaintiff can prove the defendant knew about the dangerous condition that caused their fall. Constructive knowledge is essentially a legal fiction that, when present, imputes knowledge of a hazard to a defendant. In Florida, there are two ways to establish constructive knowledge, 1.) by showing the amount of time that the hazard was present or, 2.) by showing that the dangerous condition occurred so often that the defendant should have known of its existence.

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Recently a Florida appellate court issued an opinion regarding an accident arising from shoulder injuries a man suffered when he lost control of his bicycle and fell into a drainage ditch. The man filed a personal injury lawsuit against the county alleging that they had actual or constructive knowledge of the unsafe and dangerous ditch, they failed to warn the public of the hazard, and they negligently maintained the ditch.

The plaintiff presented an expert who testified that the shoulder area of the intersection did not have a recovery slope or clear zones for bicyclists to control their bikes safely. Further, during a deposition, the expert stated that the pavement was hazardous because the pavement was deteriorating and cracked. The county moved to dismiss the case, arguing that they were not liable because the plaintiff did not establish causation. They claimed that the plaintiff could not remember how the accident occurred or how he fell into the ditch.

Florida law provides that the party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate that the case presents no genuine issues of material fact, and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In the context of personal injury cases, the inquiry is not whether the plaintiff has evidence or personal knowledge of facts establishing the at-fault party’s negligence. Further, defendants moving for summary judgment do not meet their burden just by pointing to the plaintiff’s inability to prove exactly what caused their damages. Instead, it is the trier of fact’s job to answer questions regarding causation.

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The Florida District Court of Appeals recently released an opinion addressing whether a property owner breached its non-delegable statutory duty to a person injured on a boat dock. The case arose after a woman suffered injuries on a boat dock outside of her friends’ beach club condominium. The woman filed a lawsuit against the beach club, her friends, and the construction company that was in charge of repairing the dock. She contended that the beach club was liable for breaching its duty to maintain the dock, the construction was responsible for failing to repair the dock, and her friends should have warned her of any hazardous conditions.

In response, the beach club argued the affirmative defense of comparative negligence, alleging that third parties caused the woman’s injuries. However, the plaintiff argued that the beach club was jointly and severally liable for all of her damages, and the defense was inappropriate because the club did not identify the other parties’ negligence.

Florida premises liability law states that property owners must use reasonable care in maintaining their property, and they must warn invitees of concealed or latent dangers that are unknown to the invitee. Moreover, Florida’s Condominium Act provides that condo associations must maintain their common areas in a reasonably safe condition. In this case, the contract between the condo association and owners imposed an additional non-delegable duty, which required the beach club to maintain the dock and other communal areas.

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The state’s high court recently issued an opinion in a case that arose out of a fatal Florida motorcycle accident. In this case, the motorcycle driver’s estate filed a claim with his uninsured motorist (UM) benefits under his home insurance company policy issued on a collector vehicle. The insurance company denied coverage, arguing that the policy contained a provision that limited the UM benefits to accidents involving the collector vehicle. The family appealed the ruling to Florida’s Supreme Court, arguing that the insurance policy did not comply with section 627.727, Florida Statutes, which prohibits insurance companies from placing limitations on UM coverage, such as the one at issue.

The insurance company argued that the Florida statute does not apply to specialty insurance policies. However, the plaintiffs contended that the statute provides that insurers may offer non-stacking coverage if the insurer notifies the policyholder of the limitations and executes an approved form expressly electing non-stacking coverage. Further, although the statute provides certain exceptions to the statutory limit, the law states explicitly that, “no motor vehicle liability insurance policy shall be delivered in this state unless UM vehicle coverage is provided.” Moreover, the statute allows for limited UM coverage if the policyholder did not purchase it.

Here, the court found that nothing in the statute excludes collector or antique vehicles, the limiting language in the collector vehicle policy violates the law, and the plaintiff did not reject the UM coverage, and he instead selected stacking UM coverage. Ultimately, because the insurance policy did not comply with Florida’s statutory requirements regarding UM limitations, the court found in favor of the plaintiff.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court released an opinion in a Florida truck accident case, discussing several issues that commonly arise in cases filed against trucking companies. The appeal arose after a plaintiff suffered injuries when a tire from a trailer became detached and hit the car in which she was a passenger. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against various parties, including the trucking company and the automotive company that installed the tire. The victim dropped all parties from the claim except the trucking company, alleging that the trucking company owed her a “non-delegable” duty to ensure that their trailer was safe. She argued that this duty included inspecting, maintaining, and repairing the trailer. The woman appealed after the lower court found in favor of the trucking company, holding that the trucking company was not liable for the mechanic’s faulty work.

Under Florida law, parties who hire independent contractors to do work for them may still be liable for injuries when a non-delegable duty is at issue. Challenges frequently arise in these cases because there is no specific definition or criteria for when a duty is delegable. Typically, Florida courts have found that a property owner’s duty of care toward invitees is non-delegable. In contrast, Florida courts have held that a hospital owed no non-delegable duty to a patient after a negligent independent contractor physician caused the patient injuries in the hospital’s emergency room.

In this case, the woman argued that the trucking company should have inspected the mechanic’s work. The trucking company countered that they regularly utilize the mechanic and that it is unrealistic to ask their drivers to engage in lengthy and intensive inspections that they are not trained to do. The woman relied on various Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which state that motor carriers must inspect all motor vehicles subject to their control. However, the court found that the trucking company did engage in appropriate inspections, and additional checks of the trailer were not necessary. The court, in this case, refrained from imposing blanket liability on trucking companies based on faulty repairs.

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Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion addressing the presumption of negligence in a Florida rear-end accident. At issue was whether a defendant appropriately rebutted the presumption of negligence when he rear-ended the plaintiff’s car. The accident occurred when a driver in front of the plaintiff suddenly braked their vehicle at a green light. The plaintiff and defendant both applied their brakes. The plaintiff avoided colliding with the car in front of her, but the defendant did not stop in time and subsequently rear-ended the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant based on the damages she suffered as a result of the rear-ending. A jury ruled in the defendant’s favor finding that he was not negligent. The plaintiff appealed the court’s denial of her motion for a directed verdict.

Parties in a civil personal injury lawsuit can make a motion for a directed verdict after the close of evidence before a jury renders their ruling. This occurs when one party believes that the opposing party did not prove their case as a matter of law. Under Florida law, rear-end accidents create a rebuttable presumption that the at-fault driver was negligent.

To rebut the presumption of negligence, the rear-end driver must present evidence or explanation that refutes a fact in the case. Typically, in Florida rear-end accident cases, a defendant can rebut a presumption under four circumstances. These situations include, if the rear-end driver’s car had a mechanical failure; if the in-front driver suddenly stopped; if the in-front driver suddenly changed lanes; and if the in-front driver illegally or improperly stopped. However, presumptions based on sudden stops require additional factors because drivers have a duty to remain alert. If the defendant does not appropriately rebut the presumption, a plaintiff is entitled to a directed verdict in their favor.

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Although most drivers do their best to drive carefully and safely to avoid accidents, automobile collisions are still unfortunately quite common. These accidents can cause incredibly costly injuries, and many times drivers rely on insurance companies to cover these costs. In Florida, drivers have the option to buy uninsured motorist coverage from their insurance provider. This coverage specifically protects drivers if they get into an accident with an uninsured driver who, because of their lack of insurance, does not have the funds to cover the resulting injuries. This coverage is optional in Florida, but many drivers choose to purchase it to protect themselves and their loved ones in the case of an accident with an uninsured driver.

In a recent case, a Florida Appellate court considered whether or not an accident occurring in a mobile gym located in the back of a truck is covered under an auto insurance policy that includes this type of uninsured motorist coverage. According to the court’s written opinion, the client was injured when she was training in a mobile gym. The owners of the gym installed workout equipment in the back of a truck, which they would drive to various locations and then use in training sessions with clients while parked. The plaintiff was training in the gym when she suffered permanent injuries, allegedly from her trainer’s negligence. She brought suit against the trainer and the gym owners, and those suits were settled.

However, the plaintiff also brought suit against her insurance company, arguing that the mobile gym was an “uninsured auto” under her policy, which provided coverage for injuries caused by accidents with the owner or operator of “an uninsured auto arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of that auto.” Her insurance company filed for summary judgment, which was granted in the lower court. The plaintiff then appealed.

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