In many personal injury cases, the named defendant will try to get the case dismissed as early as possible in the process. Often, the earliest opportunity for a defendant to try for a dismissal is at the summary judgment stage. Summary judgment is a motion that a defendant can make, claiming that the plaintiff’s case as presented cannot legally result in anything other than a defense verdict.
The legal standard at summary judgment is whether “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In assessing the evidence during a summary judgment proceeding, the judge should consider all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In most personal injury cases, it is the defendant that is moving for summary judgment, so the evidence is to be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
If a defendant can prove that there is no issue of material fact, the judge will dismiss the plaintiff’s case. It is the defendant’s burden to prove that there is no issue of material fact, rather than the plaintiff’s burden to prove that one exists. A recent Florida slip-and-fall case illustrates how courts apply the summary judgment standard to expert witness testimony.
The Plaintiff Slips on a Puddle Formed by Leaking Oil
The plaintiff in the case was visiting a friend at a condominium complex owned by the defendant. While walking past a set of elevators, the plaintiff slipped and fell on a puddle of oil. The plaintiff explained that he didn’t see the puddle before stepping in it, but once he got up, he noticed that the puddle was flowing out from the elevator maintenance closet.
The defendant moved for summary judgment, claiming that it was unaware of the oil leak and could not have reasonably been expected to clean it up or warn the plaintiff of its existence. The plaintiff presented a mechanical engineer as an expert witness, who testified that given the size of the puddle and the rate at which the oil was leaking, the leak had started at least 24 hours prior to the plaintiff’s fall.
The plaintiff argued that his expert’s testimony presented an issue of material fact regarding whether the defendant knew or should have known about the presence of the leak. The court agreed with the defendant, crediting his expert’s testimony. Thus, the case was allowed to proceed toward trial.
Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a South Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, even in cases that may seem straightforward, there may be certain issues that need to be presented through expert testimony. The skilled injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Frankl & Kominsky have extensive experience handling all types of personal injury cases, including slip-and-fall cases. We also have an extensive network of expert witnesses whom we use to help prove our clients’ cases. Call 855-800-8000 to schedule a free consultation today.
See Additional Blog Posts:
Florida’s Second District Reverses in Hospital Sexual Assault Case, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, February 22, 2017.
Florida Supreme Court Discusses Burden-Shifting Analysis in Medical Malpractice Cases Where Foreign Objects Are Left in a Patient’s Body, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, March 29, 2017.