Each year, many people in Florida and throughout the United States are injured in slip and fall accidents due to dangerous conditions. Evidence in slip and fall cases can be difficult to gather. This is because the last thing an injured victim is thinking about right after a fall is the legal process. Instead, the injured victim is typically trying to recover from the injuries. A decision from an appeals court in Florida recently addressed the issue of what happens when a plaintiff cannot testify with certainty regarding the cause of the fall. The court held that, in such instances, photographs of where the accident took place that show a hazardous condition will allow a case to come before a jury.
In Christakis v. Tivoli Terrace, LLC, the plaintiff alleged that she fell on steps at Terrace Apartments in Broward County in 2012. As a result, the plaintiff sustained injuries, including fracturing her right ankle. The plaintiff sued Tivoli Terrace LLC for negligence, claiming that the establishment was aware that the stairs had divots but failed to repair them.
The defendant stated that the plaintiff, who was a resident of the apartment complex, must have fallen because of her own carelessness. The defense introduced testimony by an accident reconstruction expert who said there was nothing faulty about the stairs. In addition, the defense claimed that the plaintiff was not able to point out the specific step on which she fell. The jury agreed with the defendants and found the plaintiff to be 90 percent liable for the incident.
On appeal, the Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned the lower court’s directed verdict in favor of the defendant. The court explained that although the plaintiff was unable to testify as to the exact step that made her fall, the pictures of the disrepair on the steps and the opinions of the plaintiff’s expert were enough to make liability an issue in front of the jury. Put another way, since there was conflicting evidence as to causation, the defective condition of the stairs had to be taken as a fact, based on the photographic evidence and the plaintiff’s own testimony. As a result, there was enough photo evidence to create a factual dispute that could only be resolved by the jury.
Under Florida law, the plaintiff has the burden of proof when it comes to establishing negligence. The plaintiff must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the defective condition caused the fall. The law does not allow plaintiffs to introduce speculative causes of the fall. Here, the court said the plaintiff was not being speculative because she introduced photographs showing the defects in the steps.
The court reversed the judgment notwithstanding the verdict, holding that a directed verdict is not proper in cases in which there is conflicting evidence with regard to the cause of a particular accident.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a slip and fall accident, it is important to seek the help and guidance of a skilled premises liability attorney who can analyze the facts of your case. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we will take the time to carefully explore your options and determine the strength of your claim. We proudly represent clients from across South Florida. To learn more, call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.
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