Articles Posted in Premises Liability

A state appellate court recently issued an opinion stemming from a Florida amusement park injury lawsuit. According to the record, the defendant operates an indoor amusement park that contains trampolines, walls, and zip lines. The plaintiff’s son went to an amusement park with an adult friend of the family. Before entering, the friend signed a “release, assumption of risk, waiver of liability, and indemnification agreement.” The document allowed the friend to “warrant and represent” the document on the minor’s behalf. The boy suffered serious injuries while riding a zipline attraction.

The plaintiff sued the Florida amusement park company, and the company moved to compel arbitration. The defendant contended that the arbitration agreement was valid because the friend had “physical legal custody” of the plaintiff’s son. They argued that any issues surrounding whether the woman had the authority to sign was a matter for arbitration, not trial. The trial court found in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the court reviewed several issues, including whether a dispute should go to arbitration. There are three main elements that a Florida court will review when making this determination. First, whether a valid arbitration agreement exists, whether an arbitrable issue exists, and whether the party waived the right to arbitration. In Florida, questions regarding contract formation remain a trial court issue. Further, disputes regarding whether parties entered into a valid arbitration agreement is a contract formation question. In this case, the court found that the defendant failed to acknowledge the distinction between contract validity challenges and contract formation questions.

Cruises are a time for relaxation and fun. However, cruises can often turn into a nightmare when someone is injured onboard the ship. When this occurs, an injured party can bring a Florida premises liability lawsuit against the cruise company alleging that the company is responsible for the dangerous condition that caused their injury. In a recent case, a Florida court was tasked with deciding whether a cruise ship could be held liable for a plaintiff’s injuries on the ship. Ultimately, the court concluded that the cruise ship was responsible because the employees knew about the dangerous condition that led to the plaintiff’s injuries.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was on the fourth day of a Caribbean cruise when she sustained significant injuries to her shoulder. As she returned from the buffet line, the plaintiff was forced to take a step toward the food station where she tripped over a cleaning bucket. She spent the remainder of the cruise bed-ridden and still suffered from constant pain months after the accident. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the cruise line, claiming it did not keep its ship safe for guests. Ultimately, the court decided that the defendant could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries under a premises liability theory.

Because the plaintiff was injured on property that was not her own, the cruise line had a legal obligation to keep the premises safe. This means that it must protect the guests from any unforeseeable harm. In bringing a premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant knew or should have known that a particular hazard existed. In cases where the defendant is the owner, or is the company itself, the knowledge of a dangerous condition can also be attributed to an employee and their actions. This is because owners assume liability for the actions of their employees while they are on the job.

Recently, a state appellate court issued its opinion in a Florida premises liability lawsuit arising out of fatal injuries a hotel guest suffered after being hit by a car. The record indicates that the injury victim was staying at the hotel when he got into a hotel golf cart and asked a hotel employee to drop him off at a trading post near the hotel. Besides a shuttle service to transport guests across a major highway, the hotel provided guests with a golf cart service for transportation throughout the resort. Hotel protocol provided that golf carts could not be used on public roads, except across a smaller portion of the highway for pick up and drop off on the east side of a major highway. In this case, the hotel employee drove the plaintiff across the smaller highway, and dropped him off at the east entrance to the major highway. As the plaintiff was stepping out of the golf cart, a car struck him.

After filing a negligence lawsuit against the hotel, the plaintiff died, and his case was amended to include a wrongful death claim. The plaintiff’s representative argued that the resort was negligent; however, the defendant claimed that their conduct did not create a foreseeable risk of harm. Further, the defendant argued that they did not breach their duty to the plaintiff, and the danger of stepping out onto a busy highway was open and obvious. The primary issue on appeal was whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim.

In Florida, questions concerning whether a defendant owes a duty of care is a question of law. To address this threshold issue, courts will analyze whether the defendant created a “foreseeable zone of risk,” thereby establishing a duty of care to the plaintiff. Generally, Florida negligence law recognizes that in cases where a defendant argues that the danger was within a foreseeable risk zone, they must still establish that they mitigated the risk or took steps to protect others from harm.

When a person is injured on another’s property, it can often be very painful and life-altering. In many of these cases, the property owner knew about the dangerous condition and did nothing to correct it or warn visitors of the hazard. Despite this, injury victims will often assume the accident is their fault and take no further action. However, Florida law allows those injured in these situations to hold the property owner liable by filing a premises liability lawsuit.

In a recent case, a Florida state appellate court was tasked with determining whether a property owner was negligent after the plaintiff was injured on the owner’s elevator. Evidently, the plaintiff injured his back and neck as he left his doctor’s office, stepping into the elevator, and not noticing the floor of the elevator was eighteen to twenty-four inches below the landing. The plaintiff brought a premises liability lawsuit, alleging the property owner was liable for his injuries. Ultimately, the court concluded that the record was insufficient to warrant a dismissal in the case, reversing the decision of the trial judge. Thus, the plaintiff’s case will be able to be heard by a jury.

In Florida, a property owner has a duty to maintain their property, like an elevator, in a safe condition. However, the duty to keep property safe is twofold because an owner must use reasonable care: (1) to learn of the existence of any dangerous conditions on the premises; (2) to protect people from dangerous conditions they have knowledge of. This means that if a property owner fails to take reasonable steps to learn of a dangerous condition, they could still be found negligent. Additionally, in most cases, a property owner’s duty to maintain their property in a safe condition cannot be delegated to others.

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In an exciting win for Florida personal injury plaintiffs and their physicians, the state’s Supreme Court issued a recent landmark decision in the case of Worley v. Central Florida Young Men’s Christian Ass’n, Inc. The main issues in Worley were the permissibility of discovery as to who referred a plaintiff to her treating physicians and the financial relationship between those treating physicians and the plaintiff’s attorney. These hotly contested issues permeate many personal injury cases. In a very cogent opinion, the Supreme Court resolved these long-standing conflicts in favor of Florida personal injury plaintiffs by fully restoring the attorney-client privilege and making treating physician financial discovery off-limits.

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As the holidays approach, many of us will be attending parties at restaurants and having parties at our homes. At most of these parties, alcoholic beverages will be served. So, what are the legal ramifications for a restaurant or homeowner if someone leaves their property intoxicated and causes serious injuries to themselves or others? Florida’s Dram Shop law, codified as Fla. Stat. § 768.125, provides only very limited scenarios under which a business or homeowner can be held liable for the tortious acts of an intoxicated person such as a drunk driver.

Under Florida’s Dram Shop law, there are only two scenarios where a business or homeowner can be successfully sued for the actions of an intoxicated person. Those scenarios are: (1) the willful and unlawful selling or furnishing of alcoholic beverages to a person not of legal drinking age; and (2) knowingly serving a person alcohol who is “habitually addicted to the use of alcoholic beverages.” Under any other circumstances, according to §768.125, a person or business who provides alcoholic beverages to someone of legal drinking age “shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage” caused by or resulting from that intoxicated person.

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If you have been injured in a fall accident due to a dangerous condition, taking photographs of the accident scene is a very useful step in your pursuit of justice. Due to the chaotic nature of slip and falls, the details surrounding the accident may not be immediately apparent to an injured party. Sometimes the incident happens so quickly and it is so unexpected that the person may not be certain as to what caused them to fall. A recent decision from a Florida appeals court reinforces that even if an injured party cannot testify with certainty as to what caused them to fall, pictures of the accident scene that show a dangerous condition will get the case to a jury that can produce a prevailing outcome.

In Christakis v. Tivoli Terrace, LLC, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal addressed the issue of directing a verdict in a premises liability personal injury case wherein the injured Plaintiff was not certain as to what exactly caused her fall but had strong photographic evidence. In Christakis, the Plaintiff alleged that she fell and injured herself to a dangerous condition – the Defendant’s steps. The photographic evidence in this case showed that the Defendant’s steps were damaged and in disrepair; the Plaintiff also called an expert to testify that the steps were dangerous. Despite a jury verdict in favor of the Plaintiff, the trial court entered a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the Defendant due to the fact that the Plaintiff did not testify with certainty that the damaged step caused her to fall.

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words. After a slip/trip and fall, a picture can worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Having visual evidence of the dangerous condition that caused you to fall and injure yourself can go a long way in helping you prove your premises liability case.

To successfully prove a slip/fall premises liability case in Florida, a plaintiff must

prove that the, “business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it” (See Fla. Stat. §768.0755). Actual knowledge means the business owner/employees clearly knew of the spill or actually created the spill. The other means of proving a slip/fall case, constructive knowledge, requires a showing that the business owner/employees should have known of the spill if they used due diligence in inspecting and cleaning the premises.

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Welcome to the personal injury blog for The Grife Law Firm. Michael K. Grife has been fighting for the rights of injury victims in the Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Deerfield Beach, and Delray Beach areas since 2005, and he can help you through this difficult time in your life.

Mr. Grife’s practice is entirely focused on plaintiff personal injury cases. He has experience handling just about every type of personal injury claim, including:

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