The Importance of Establishing a Defendant’s Knowledge of the Hazard in Florida Premises Liability Lawsuits

All Florida personal injury claims have certain elements that must be met before a jury can award a plaintiff compensation for the injuries they have sustained. In general, all lawsuits brought under the umbrella of “negligence” must establish that the defendant violated a duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff, and that the defendant’s violation of that duty resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.

Specific to Florida premises liability lawsuits, a plaintiff must establish the following:

  • The defendant knew or should have known that the hazard existed;
  • The defendant failed to remedy the hazard or warn the plaintiff about the hazard if it was unable to be fixed; and
  • The plaintiff was injured as a result.

While this sounds simple in theory, in reality these cases are often much more complex. Often, this comes down to a plaintiff’s ability to show the court that the defendant landowner had knowledge of the hazard that caused their injuries. A recent decision issued by the Third District Court of Appeal illustrates how lower courts sometimes get the analysis wrong.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured after stepping in a substance that had spilled near the hot bar in a Whole Foods grocery store. The plaintiff explained that she did not see the substance on the floor prior to her fall, but afterwards she noticed that she had stepped in a greasy, creamy substance. The plaintiff claimed that it looked as though others had stepped in the substance and that it had been there for at least a little while. In support of her claim, the plaintiff had her son testify. He testified consistently with his mother.

Whole Foods had video cameras that captured the area where the plaintiff fell, but the store only preserved a few seconds of video showing the plaintiff’s fall. There was no video preserved from before the fall, which may have shown how long the spill had been there and whether an employee had tried to clean it up.

The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s case, finding that she failed to establish that the store knew or should have known about the presence of the spill. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that her own testimony, as well as that of her son, was legally sufficient to meet her burden and that the lower court was wrong to dismiss her case.

The appellate court agreed and reversed the lower court’s decision. As a result, the plaintiff’s case was remanded and will proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while on the property of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida premises liability lawsuit. At the dedicated South Florida injury law firm of Frankl Kominsky, we represent victims and their families in all types of Florida personal injury and wrongful death cases. With our experience on your side, you can rest assured that your case is in good hands. To learn more, call 561-708-5483 to schedule a free consultation today.

See Additional Blog Posts:

Florida Court Rejects Nursing Home’s Request to Have Arbitrator Determine Validity of Arbitration Agreement, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, April 11, 2018.

Florida Court Discusses When a Case Is Considered One of Medical Malpractice, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, May 23, 2018.

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