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Florida Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Case Involving Claim of Governmental Immunity

A Florida man who was injured in a motor vehicle accident successfully appealed a final summary judgment motion entered by a lower court in favor of the City of Coral Gables. The case stemmed from injuries that the plaintiff sustained when his motorcycle collided with an SUV at an intersection. The plaintiff testified that he was traveling northbound when he noticed the SUV approaching in the southbound lane. The SUV driver was making a left turn when the plaintiff collided with the other driver’s SUV. The plaintiff explained that he could not stop in time to avoid the collision. The driver of the SUV claimed that recently planted palm trees with wooden supports at the end of the median obstructed his view of the motorcyclist.

The motorcyclist sued the City alleging, among other issues, that the City created a dangerous condition by negligently designing the intersection and planting the palm trees. The plaintiff argued that the City was liable because the trees and their wooden supports obstructed a driver’s view of oncoming traffic. The City countered that it should not be liable because the placement and wooden supports were a planning decision and not an operational decision; therefore, protected by governmental immunity.

Governmental entities cannot face liability for many of the day-to-day activities carried out by government employees. However, certain exceptions allow individuals to file a tort action against a Florida government agency. For governmental tort liability, the injury victim must be able to establish that the government entity owed them a statutory duty of care. The government agency will be liable only to the same extent that a private person would be under similar circumstances. Finally, certain discretionary functions are immune to lawsuits.

The Supreme Court designed a framework to categorize the various governmental functions:

  • Licensing, legislative, executive officer and permitting functions;
  • Law enforcement and public safety protections;
  • Capital improvement, planning, and property control; and
  • Educational and general services for the health and welfare of citizens.

In this case, the appeals court held that summary judgment was inappropriate because there are genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the City knew or should have known that they created a dangerous condition. In fact, Florida courts have specifically held that a party may sue a governmental agency based on obstructions to visibility if the danger is hidden and the governmental entity has knowledge of the condition and fails to warn drivers.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Motorcycle Accident?

If you or a loved has been injured in a Florida motorcycle accident, contact the experienced accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert Dixon. Governmental tort actions are typically challenging and require extensive knowledge of Florida policies and procedures. Our Florida accident attorneys can assist you in understanding your rights and remedies. We can help you get the compensation you deserve for the injuries you sustained. Damages may include medical bills, lost wages, property damage, as well as any pain and suffering you endured as a result of the accident. Contact the law firm at 877-499-4878 to schedule your free initial consultation.