Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida wrongful death case discussing the permissible scope of a liability release waiver and whether such a waiver can prevent a plaintiff from pursuing a claim of gross negligence against a defendant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case should proceed because the waiver signed by the plaintiff did not include the waiver of claims based on the defendant’s gross negligence.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was killed when she was run over by a tow-truck on the Daytona International Speedway. Apparently, the plaintiff was standing in a restricted-access area when two employees of the raceway instructed the tow-truck driver to back the truck into the restricted area. As the truck was backing up, it ran over the plaintiff.
Before the plaintiff entered the raceway, she signed a release and waiver of liability. The waiver stated that the plaintiff agreed to “release, waive and discharge” the defendant “for any and all loss or damage” resulting in injury or death. The agreement stated that it applied to “all acts of negligence.”
The plaintiff filed a wrongful death case against the raceway. The plaintiff argued that the raceway, through its employees, was grossly negligent. In response, the raceway argued that the waiver signed by the plaintiff prevented her from bringing the lawsuit. The trial court agreed and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The plaintiff appealed.
On Appeal, the Case Is Reversed
The appellate court reversed the lower court’s decision, and allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations. The court explained that, in Florida, most waivers of liability are enforceable; however, only to a certain extent. While a defendant can include terms limiting a person’s ability to sue based on the defendant’s negligence, a defendant is not able to include terms limiting claims based on its gross negligence.
Here, the court noted that the plaintiff’s claim was that the defendant raceway was grossly negligent. Thus, this removed the plaintiff’s claim from the type of claim that was covered by the waiver. The court then went on to determine that the plaintiff’s allegations were sufficient to constitute a legal case of gross negligence, and that she met her burden to defeat the defense motion for summary judgment. Thus, the court ordered that the plaintiff’s case proceed, where it will be scheduled for trial unless the parties are able to reach a settlement agreement.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Florida accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. This may even be the case if you signed a release of liability or some similar document. The dedicated South Florida injury lawyers at the law firm of Frankl Kominsky have extensive experience handling all types of Florida personal injury and wrongful death claims, and provide free consultations to injury victims considering such a claim. To learn more, call 561-609-1948 to schedule your free consultation today.
See Additional Blog Posts:
Who Does Florida’s Move Over Law Protect?, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, November 28, 2018.
Distracted Driving Causes Over 50,000 Florida Car Accidents Annually, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, December 26, 2018.