Florida’s slip-and-fall statute, F.S. 768.0755, requires that if a person slips and suffers injury in the fall on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, that person must first prove the business had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard and therefore had a duty to actively remedy it. Actual knowledge could be shown if the business created the condition or if a staffer or manager was informed directly of the floor’s condition at that time and location. Constructive knowledge is a bit trickier. It is shown by proving the condition existed for such a length of time that the business establishment should have learned of it in the exercise of ordinary care OR that the condition occurred with regularity and was thus foreseeable.
House fires have the potential to cause serious threats to our personal safety and welfare. The National Fire Protection Association estimates home fires kill 2,500 annually (accounting for 93 percent of all civilian structure fire deaths), which breaks down to an average of seven daily. They also injure some 12,300 people each year and cause more than $6.7 billion in direct damage.
The question of who is legally responsible for a fire can be a complex one, even when there is no evidence someone intentionally set the fire (in which case criminal arson charges may be applicable). More often than not, the cause is accidental, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t preventable or that someone shouldn’t be held liable. The NFPA reports cooking equipment is the No. 1 cause of home structure fires and injuries, followed by smoking and heating equipment.
But for those who live in rental properties, it’s important to consider the actions or omissions of the landlord. While such actions may not have caused the fire, they may have created circumstances that made the structure vulnerable to fire or exacerbated the risk of injury or death. Examples might include absent or broken smoke detectors, blocked fire exits, missing safety equipment and maintenance failures. Continue reading →
A Florida personal injury that occurs on someone else’s property can in some circumstances be compensated under the legal theory of premises liability. These theory opines that property owners owe varying degrees of duty to protect lawful visitors (and sometimes even lawful visitors) from unreasonable risk of harm. This could be a slip-and-fall, a dog bite, faulty stairs or negligent security resulting in vulnerability to a third-party criminal attack. One of the most common defenses in Florida premises liability lawsuits is the “open and obvious” doctrine.
Essentially, as noted in the Florida Supreme Court’s 1952 decision in Early v. Morrison Cafeteria Co. of Orlando, a business property owner has a legal right to assume those invited to the site will perceive potentially dangerous conditions that are open and obvious to the ordinary senses. One has a duty to avoid these open and obvious dangers, and a business has no responsibility to warn patrons of these dangers. It’s the concealed dangers – those the business knows or should know about – that require warning. In any case, business property owners do have a responsibility to use “ordinary care” in keeping the site reasonably safe.
One premises liability case recently weighed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit considered whether a teetering tower of rolled insulation at a hardware store customer loading area was an open and obvious hazard, or whether the business owed a legal duty to address or warn of the potential danger. Continue reading →
A 14-year-old was recently injured in a Florida amusement park accident when she was reportedly thrown from a ride while it was in motion, eventually landing on the metal walkway that surrounded the ride. The Tallahassee Democrat reported the ride moves in a circular loop, but does not leave the ground, operating something like a fast carousel. The high school freshman later said she felt her feet start to slip and she was unable to hold on.
The girl’s mother said her daughter had not been engaging in horseplay or flouting the rules in a manner that would have resulted in her being thrown from the ride. She said she shouted at the ride operator to halt the machine, but the music was too loud to grab his attention. The girl was initially unconscious and was later transported to the hospital with a broken nose and a large gash on her forehead requiring stitches.
The ride was shut down for the rest of the evening and into the following morning, but was later cleared for re-opening, following an inspection by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ ride inspection unit. The unit reportedly ascertained there was no malfunction of the machine. Specifically, it appeared the lap restraints were working properly and the speed was within the limits of the manufacturer’s recommendations. Continue reading →
The National Floor Safety Institute (a non-profit dedicated to reduce slips, trips and falls through education, research and development of standards) reports falls account for more than 8 million hospital emergency room visits annually. Bone fractures occur in about 5 percent of all falls, which are a leading cause of missed time off work for laborers and a top cause of death among the elderly.
When one suffers a fall at a store or other place of business, the question of whether a claim for damages is viable will depend on numerous factors, including how obvious the hazard was to whether the store had “notice” (actual or constructive) of it. Slip-and-falls in particular can be tricky because of more stringent standards of proof passed by the legislature in 2010 and codified in F.S. 768.0755.
Recently, a slip-and-fall lawsuit out of Wyoming resulted in a plaintiff getting a second stab at pursuing her case, after a trial court had previously dismissed her claim for failure to state a genuine issue of material fact. The Wyoming Supreme Court disagreed and reversed, remanding the case back to the lower court for trial. That doesn’t mean plaintiff will necessarily win, but summary judgment (which is decided by a judge as a matter of law) is inappropriate for a case where there are unresolved matters of genuine material fact (which are to be decided by a jury).
The case underscores how complicated the simple matter of a fall can be, legally speaking. Continue reading →
When an employee causes injury to someone else in the course and scope of employment, their employer can be held vicariously liable for those injuries. The legal doctrine is called respondeat superior, which is Latin for, “Let the master answer.”
Of course, an employer could also be found directly liable as well for things like negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision or negligent security. But respondeat superior does not require a finding that the business was negligent. As long as the negligent employee was acting in furtherance of the business at the time the incident occurred, the business may be liable.
This is what is alleged in a Florida personal injury lawsuit recently filed against Apple Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The case is filed federally because, while the injury occurred in South Florida, the company is headquartered in California. Continue reading →
Jurors awarded $148 million in damages to a former dance student who was permanently paralyzed as a result of a poorly-maintained pedestrian shelter at a bus stop of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. That amount fell shy of the $175 million plaintiff’s attorneys sought for her injuries, but it was far more than the $30 million defense attorneys suggested to jurors.
According to The Chicago Tribune, the City of Chicago, which is responsible for maintenance at the airport, conceded liability in the case. The only matter to be decided by jurors was how much should be paid in damages.
In Florida, when someone has been injured in any type of accident, there may be grounds to pursue both financial (economic) as well as non-economic damages. Economic damages are calculated by determining the cost of things like medical bills, therapy and lost wages resulting from the incident. Non-economic damages, meanwhile, are intended to cover the kinds of intangible negative impact of an injury. For instance, non-economic damages would cover things like pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment, permanent disfigurement or loss of consortium. Continue reading →
A bar injury involving a mechanical bull resulted in an $81,000 settlement prior to trial, after a customer was thrown violently from the ride, suffering a broken ankle, torn ligament and other injuries. The same bar has paid at least $200,000 in damages to at least six other patrons who suffered similar injuries over a ten-year time frame.
Mechanical bulls are a staple at some Western-themed bars across the U.S., including in Florida. This particular case occurred in New York, but the same basic legal theory of premises liability applies.
Property owners and property managers have a responsibility to make sure their site is reasonably safe for paying customers (also known as “business invitees”). That means addressing conditions that are unreasonably dangerous, and warning customers about them if there are no immediate fixes. It’s unclear in this case whether there were any warnings or liability waivers signed by those who rode the bull, but defendants in these cases have been known to assert the defense that claimants assumed the risk when they chose to ride. Continue reading →
In Florida, if you get injured on someone else’s property, whether it is a private home or a business frequented by the general public, the law that controls whether the property owner is liable is known as premises liability law. The basic rule is that a land owner will be liable to an injured guest in many situations, but it depends on the reason plaintiff was on the property at the time of the accident.
At common law, and still today, there is a distinction between licensees and invitees. A Licensee is someone who is on the property solely for his or her own enjoyment. Basically, this person is on the property and is not benefiting the landowner. This comes from a landmark legal decision from the Supreme Court of Florida entitled Stewart v. Texas (1953). In this case, it was held that landowner only owes a duty to warn of known dangers, keep the property in reasonably safe condition, or intentionally places plaintiff in harm’s way. An example of a business licensee would be someone who comes into a store to get change for a parking meter, but not to purchase anything. Continue reading →
Anytime personal injury lawsuits are settled, there may be terms and conditions that must be read carefully. There are some situations wherein the language could prohibit any and all future claims against other potential defendants – and that may not be a scenario you want, depending on the circumstances.
In a recent appellate case out of California, the language of an earlier settlement agreement became an issue in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit filed by a mechanic against a property owner. The question before the appellate court was whether plaintiff’s claim against these entities was barred because of a settlement with one defendant
Here’s what happened: In 2011, plaintiff, a mechanic, was hired by the auto sales company to figure out why a vehicle owned by the sales firm wouldn’t start. Unbeknownst to plaintiff, the towing company had recently towed the vehicle to the site and disconnected the transmission shift linkage when it did this. However, the towing company employee did not reconnect the shift linkage. Plaintiff said he put the vehicle in park and climbed underneath to troubleshoot. When he went to test the electrical connection to the starter, the vehicle ran over him and dragged him through the parking lot.
Plaintiff’s spine was crushed. Continue reading →