New Ruling in Florida Premises Liability Case Supports More Opportunities for Plaintiff Recovery
In a recent case involving a truck driver who suffered a slip and fall accident after walking into a gas station with a marked and visible oil spill, the appellate court overturned the trial court verdict and sent the case back to trial for consideration regarding whether or not the property owner in question had maintained the premises properly under premises liability safety guideline expectations.
Basics of Premises Liability Law in Florida
In Florida, property owners, managers and/or agents are required by state law to ensure and maintain safety protocols that provide safe conditions for all who may be present at their premises or property. These required public safety protocols also extend to include the sidewalk in front of all premises and properties. Easily visible and legible notices of warning that alert patrons to hazardous or unsafe conditions must be posted if and when such conditions are present.
For example, consider high traffic areas such as the floors of supermarkets and other stores selling consumer goods. By law, floor conditions are to be constantly monitored and maintained to reasonably ensure the public’s safety. While shop stewards and owners may not be held to an unreasonable level of standard such as a continuous monitoring of all customers to ensure that they do not encounter any hazardous conditions while on the premise, the law sets a reasonable expectation of adherence to safety guidelines.
Generally, the law does not consider an owner/manager/agent’s burden to monitor aisles and walkways for any potentially dangerous conditions, provide proper notice of and restriction to such areas, and completely remedy the dangerous or hazardous condition as soon as possible to be an unreasonable expectation of premise liability safety standards.
Burden of Proof is on the Plaintiff
In Florida, the premise liability law dictates that the burden of proof is the plaintiff’s responsibility. The plaintiff has an obligation to show that the store’s employees, agents or owner had actual or constructive knowledge of an unsafe condition and neglected or failed to remedy it properly.
How Florida’s Comparative Negligence Law Affects Premises Liability Cases
Because Florida tort law follows a pure comparative negligence rule, a defense case in a premises liability action will generally introduce the supposition that the Plaintiff is totally or partially at-fault for the accident that resulted in the injuries in question. As such, there is a potential for a reduction in the amount of compensation award a Plaintiff would receive from the other at-fault parties. The amount of the reduction of compensation award, where applicable, is determined by assigning a percentage of blame to each party named in the action.
“Open and Obvious” Hazards Don’t Negate Responsibility
While initiating a premises liability or slip and fall personal injury case as a Plaintiff may seem daunting, the recent ruling in the Florida Appellate Court regarding the truck driver’s case was an important win for victims.
The crux of the Appellate Court’s opinion concerned the fact that while victims have a duty to protect themselves and act accordingly when they identify any “open and obvious” conditions of hazard or danger at a property or premise, this does not absolve the owner/agent/manager of the premise or property from the burden of maintaining the property in a safe condition.
For example, a grocery store cannot leave a broken and spilled bottle of red wine in a store aisle for hours on end because the hazard is “open and obvious.” The responsible parties are still expected to maintain routine premises safety procedures. This responsibility includes resolution of the dangerous or hazardous condition as soon as possible.
The Florida Appellate Court’s recent ruling supports the reasoning that an “open and obvious” premise liability hazard does not automatically negate the responsible party’s potential liability in the accident.
If you have questions about a premises liability accident, please contact the Fort Lauderdale law offices of Boone & Davis by calling (954) 566-9919. After an initial consultation, we can begin working on your case to help you secure the compensation you deserve.