Recently, an appeals court issued an opinion in a Florida negligence lawsuit stemming from injuries an attorney suffered while visiting a county jail client. As the attorney passed through a security gate at the jail, an inside gate closed on her. The defendants argued that neither the County nor the corrections officer controlling the gate acted negligently. Instead, the defendant argued that the plaintiff tripped on a sensor or the gate malfunctioned. The defendants contended that the malfunction was unrelated to any negligence on their part.
The plaintiff presented testimony explaining how the gates operate and how an officer manually opens the gate to allow visitors to pass through. The officer in charge of the gate on the day of the incident testified that he did not press any buttons while the plaintiff was stepping through. Further, he testified that a safety sensor should have halted the gate. However, the plaintiff failed to present evidence explaining whether a malfunction could cause the gate to close unexpectedly.
Florida’s res ipsa loquitur doctrine, provides injury victims with a “common-sense” inference of negligence where there is a lack of direct proof. In Latin, res ipsa loquitur means “the thing speaks for itself.” However, this only applies when there are other facts consistent with negligence. Courts permit this instruction when a plaintiff establishes that the harmful instrumentality was under the defendant’s exclusive control. Essentially, a plaintiff must meet the initial burden establishing probable negligence. Plaintiffs must understand that the doctrine does not require them to eliminate all possible causes of an accident. Instead, they must merely show that a reasonable person could find that it is more likely than not that negligence caused the accident.
In this case, the plaintiff needed to establish that the defendant was the probable cause of her injuries. Although she presented limited testimony regarding the gate’s general functionality, the testimony did not address the gate’s malfunction on the day of the incident. The court maintained that other reasons, besides negligence, might have caused the malfunction. Although the plaintiff presented some testimony regarding the gatekeeper’s negligence, ultimately, the court found that because the plaintiff did not establish that the accident would not have occurred without negligence, she did not meet her burden.
Have You Suffered Injuries in a Florida Accident?
If you or someone you love has suffered serious injuries or died in a Florida accident, you should contact the attorneys at Frankl & Kominsky. The dedicated attorneys at our law firm provide exceptional advocacy and representation to injury victims. Our office handles injury claims stemming from Florida slip and fall accidents, product liability cases, motor vehicle accidents, incidents of medical malpractice, and wrongful death claims. As skilled negotiators, we can confidently work towards a favorable settlement with the insurance company. However, we are also aggressive litigators and, if the insurance company is unwilling to offer you what you deserve, we will not hesitate to stand up from the negotiation table and take your case to trial in pursuit of every penny you deserve. We understand the unique challenges that personal injury cases often present, and we work to ensure that our clients recover the compensation they deserve. Contact our law firm at 561-354-6184, to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.