Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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An appeals court recently issued a decision in a plaintiff’s appeal of a final judgment motion in favor of a construction company. The plaintiff filed a Florida premises liability lawsuit against a construction company for injuries he suffered from falling into a drain. The plaintiff worked as an electrical subcontractor for a project the construction company was overseeing. There were approximately a hundred drains on the construction site, and depending on the phase of construction, the drains would be covered or uncovered. The plaintiff’s work on the site was sporadic, and he was at the site about a week before the incident leading to the lawsuit. On the day of the accident, it was bright outside, but the interior lighting was about thirty percent below the average level. When the plaintiff opened a door, dust from grinding work and the light blinded him, and he fell into the drain.

The plaintiff sued the construction company, arguing that they were negligent for failing to keep the premises safe. At trial, the defendant successfully argued that they were entitled to summary judgment because the drain was an open and obvious danger. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that there were genuine material fact issues.

In Florida, property owners and occupiers owe business invitees, such as the plaintiff, the duty to use reasonable care in maintaining the property. Further, they must warn of dangers the owner knew or should have known about, and which the invitee does not know about and cannot discover through reasonable care. There are exceptions for dangers, which are “open and obvious.” Under the open and obvious doctrine, a property owner is not liable for dangerous conditions when the condition is obvious or known, unless the owner should anticipate the danger and injuries.

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Summary judgment is a procedural tool that either party in a civil lawsuit can use to dismiss specific issues from a lawsuit. Florida’s summary judgment rules have undergone some drastic changes in the last few months, and plaintiffs must understand how the procedural tool functions in court settings. In most cases, lawsuits proceed to trial because the plaintiff and defendant disagree about the facts of a case. However, in some situations, critical facts of a case may not be under dispute. In these cases, a party may ask the court to decide the lawsuit’s outcome without a trial. This is only applicable when there are no material facts under dispute, and in light of the undisputed facts, the moving party is entitled to judgment under the law.

Under Florida laws, a plaintiff cannot file a summary judgment motion within the first 20 days after filing a complaint. However, the defendant can file a summary judgment motion at any time. The motion must specifically detail the grounds upon which it is based and identify all evidence that the moving party relies upon. The movant must file and appropriately serve the other party with the motion at least 20 days before the scheduled hearing date. Both parties can use depositions, interrogatories, and expert affidavits to support or oppose a summary judgment motion.

After the judge receives the motion and response, they will preside over the hearing and listen to the attorneys present their arguments. These hearings do not involve any other oral testimony. Summary judgment is a useful tool for plaintiffs; however, when the other party moves for summary judgment, a plaintiff may risk having their case dismissed. An experienced attorney can help plaintiffs understand the best course of action in cases involving summary judgment.

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Wrongful death in the workplace or during work activities is one of the most tragic events that a Florida family can experience. Those that suffered a loss because of a Florida workplace accident should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies. These cases can be challenging because of the interplay between workers’ compensation and negligence laws.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that many fatal workplace accidents occur at construction sites. OSHA classifies construction site accidents into one of the “fatal four” incidents, electrocutions, falls, crush injuries, and blunt force injuries. For example, recently, a Florida news report described a shocking crush injury at a Home Depot. The victim was delivering materials to the Florida Home Depot when a load of construction materials fell on him. OSHA stated that they are investigating the incident to determine why the construction load fell. This situation is a prime example of a potentially complex negligence lawsuit. The delivery driver was not a Home Depot employee, but rather an employee of a third-party carrier, delivering products from another company.

Generally, the law provides Florida employers with immunity from their employees’ personal injury lawsuits. The immunity is derived from Florida’s workers’ compensation laws, which allow employers to receive payments for their injuries without establishing employer negligence, unlike traditional personal injury lawsuits. However, as a trade-off for this “no-fault” system, lawmakers have made it exceedingly difficult for employees to sue an employer successfully. However, there are exceptions if an employer acted grossly negligent, in a wanton manner, or intentionally. However, it is an onerous standard that many plaintiffs cannot meet.

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A federal district court recently issued an opinion in a Florida premises liability lawsuit against Orange County. The plaintiff, an attorney, met with a client at a county jail when an interior gate suddenly closed on her. Following the incident, the plaintiff filed a Florida premises liability lawsuit against the County for her injuries. The County argued that neither it nor the corrections officer controlling the gate, acted negligently. They contended that the plaintiff tripped on a sensor or experienced an unexpected gate malfunction.

The plaintiff presented testimony from jail employees describing how the gates operate and what steps an officer takes to open a gate when a visitor enters or exits. The officer in charge of operating the gate on the day of the incident stated that he did not press any buttons while the plaintiff was walking through. He explained that the sensor serves as a safety mechanism to stop the gate from closing when a person walks through the gate. The plaintiff did not introduce any evidence explaining whether the gate malfunctioned. However, the trial court provided a res ipsa loquitur instruction.

Res ipsa loquitur, which roughly translates to “the thing speaks for itself,” is a theory that allows a court to infer negligence from the inherent nature of the accident. This theory is applicable when there is an absence of direct evidence of a defendant’s actions. To be entitled to a res ipsa loquitur instruction, a plaintiff must establish that the instrumentality causing his or her injury was under the exclusive control of the defendant, and that the accident was one that would not, in the ordinary course of events, have occurred without negligence on the part of the one in control.

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Under Florida’s premises liability law, those who suffer injuries on another’s property because of a dangerous hazard, defect, or condition, may be able to recover compensation for their injuries. Premises liability law is based on a property owner’s duty to ensure that their property is safe for visitors. However, liability largely depends on the relationship between the visitor and the property owner. Although some states are moving towards abolishing the distinctions, Florida law maintains that visitors are either invitees, licensees, or trespassers. However, despite these classifications, there are nuances and complexities to the rules. For instance, complications often arise when a person suffers injuries while participating in a recreational activity.

Florida’s recreational use statute protects some landowners from lawsuits when they open their land to the public. In these cases, the property owner must keep the area reasonably safe for visitors and warn visitors of dangerous conditions. This generally applies to property owners who hold their land out to hunt, fish, wildlife viewing, or other similar purposes. However, generally, the recreational use statute does not apply if a landowner charges an admission to enter or use their land.

Similarly, in some cases, companies that offer recreational activities to participants may be immune from certain lawsuits. For instance, amusement parks, water parks, paintball arenas, and mini-golf courses may protect themselves by requiring participants to sign a liability waiver release. Additionally, these entities may defend against a claim by arguing that the participant assumed the risk or was non-compliant with safety rules. However, in some cases, a participant may suffer injuries that are only somewhat related to the recreational activity. This can occur because of an intervening incident or unexpected occurrence.

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Premises liability is a form of negligence that imputes liability on a landowner or occupier for injuries that occur on their property. Premises liability claims can arise from various situations such as slip and falls, pool accidents, dog bites, and other home-related accidents. The law generally categorizes a landowner’s liability based on the classification of the visitor. The three main types of visitors under Florida premises liability law are invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Licensees are those that enter the property owner’s land for the owner’s convenience and with their permission. These visitors typically include social guests like friends or family. Landowners must ensure that their property is reasonably safe, fix unsafe conditions, and warn social guests of known dangers. Trespassers are those that enter a landowner’s property without consent or knowledge. Landowners have limited duties in these cases and must exercise reasonable care for trespassers that he knows are on the property.

Invitees are those that enter an owner’s land with the intent to transact business with the landowner’s express or implied invitation. The law provides that landowners owe these parties the highest duty of care. Landowners must ensure that their property is in a safe condition, and if it is not, they must repair defects or notify invitees of the known hazards on the property. The law further delineates the group into business invitees and public invitees. Business invitees are those that enter the land for a direct or indirect business dealing with the owner. Whereas, public invitees, are those who enter the property for a purpose for which the land is held open to the public.

There are many nuances to Florida’s premises liability laws that may drastically change a property owner’s liability. For instance, independent contractors do not fall squarely within any of the classifications. Generally, property owners are not liable for injuries that an independent contractor sustains on their land while performing their job duties. However, a recent Florida court addressed an exception to this general rule. In that case, an independent contractor filed a lawsuit against a property owner for injuries he sustained after being electrocuted while trimming trees on the property. The plaintiff conceded that he saw the electric lines, but did not know if they were high voltage lines.

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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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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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According to a recent news report, after increasing pressure from residents, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis released a seven-page list of the names of over 300 nursing homes where patients or staff tested positive for COVID-19 (the coronavirus). These nursing homes and long-term care facilities serve a diverse patient base, and provide various types of acute, rehabilitative, and convalescent care. Despite good intentions, many of these nursing homes fail to provide their patients with an appropriate level of care. In some cases, this deficient care amounts to nursing home abuse and neglect, and victims and their families may be able to hold the facility liable for their damages.

According to recent statistics, as many as 5,000,000 individuals suffer abuse or neglect at these facilities every year, and evidence suggests that 1 in 10 of these victims are over 60 years old. Abuse and neglect manifest in many different ways, and it is not always apparent to loved ones. It may take the form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Further, many patients suffer neglect when the facility fails to provide the patient with appropriate care or prevent the spread of disease or infection. Many facilities are facing a heightened level of scrutiny after facilities began to face outbreaks of COVID-19.

Understandably, many families whose loved ones receive care at these facilities began to demand the release of names of facilities with positive cases. Residents and loved ones requested the list of names so that they could make informed decisions about how to proceed with the care of their family members. Before this request, the facilities only needed to provide residents, staff, and family members when there was a positive result. However, the list did not include any context regarding what the actual outcome of the positive result was.

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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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