An 83-year-old woman arrived at her local hospital in Rochester, NY to undergo a surgical cancer treatment. It was early in the morning, so it was dark and the overhead lighting in the parking garage was poor. She parked in the handicapped spot and then helped her daughter, seated in the backseat, into her wheelchair.
As the Democrat & Chronicle reported, the hospital placed cement parking stops inside the pedestrian walkway that bordered those handicapped parking spaces. The stops were the same color as the concrete floor. As plaintiff rounded the corner of her car, she tripped and fell. She sustained a serious shoulder fracture.
When the hospital refused her offer a reasonable settlement for the 2013 injury, she filed a premises liability lawsuit. The case went to trial just recently, with jurors deciding the case in plaintiff’s favor after just 20 minutes of deliberation. The final award: $550,000.
The hospital insists it was not to blame and, while it’s sorry for plaintiff’s injury, disputes liability and plans to appeal.
A key issue in this case was the inability of the hospital to provide inspection records for the parking garage. This goes back to the duty of care property owners/ managers owe to those who visit. When it comes to lawful visitors on site for business purposes, those in charge of the site have a responsibility not just to use reasonable care to repair and correct dangers that are known, but also to reasonably inspect for, discover and correct unknown dangers in areas of the premises to which a person might have access.
There is no bright line rule as to what is reasonable. Typically, courts will look at what an individual of ordinary judgment and intelligence would do.
For example, it might not be reasonable to expect a small business owner to install security cameras and hire someone to watch his or her parking lot all day. However, that might be a reasonable expectation for a larger operation, such as a hospital, particularly if there have been prior problems with safety or security. Much of what is reasonable will depend on the type of operation, the nature of the risk, whether the condition is known or should be known to the property owner and whether the danger was reasonably foreseeable.
Another important factor to consider: What was the victim doing there? This is important because Florida courts assign varying degrees of responsibility on owners depending on the status of the injured visitor. For example, there are invitees who are members of the public invited onto the site by the owner for the purpose of engaging in commerce that benefits the property owner. These visitors are owed the highest duty of care. Then there are licensees, who may be invited or not invited. They are owed a lesser level of care, but property owners still need to use reasonable care not to expose them to dangerous conditions on site. Then there are trespassers. These individuals are owed the least level of care, though property owners are not allowed to intentionally harm them (i.e, set dangerous traps).
Slip-and-fall accident claims can be successful if you are prepared with an experienced injury lawyer.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Injured woman wins suit; Highland Hospital to appeal, Oct. 11, 2016, By Lois Wilson, Democrat & Chronicle
More Blog Entries:
Regalado v. Callaghan – Premises Liability Lawsuit for Pool Contractor Injury, Sept. 23, 2016, Palm Beach Injury Lawyer Blog