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Slip and Fall Cases Explained

Categories:Law in Florida

A slip and fall case is a lawsuit used to recover compensation for injuries sustained in an accident that occurred from allegedly unsafe conditions on a business property. In Florida, the law requires that owners or managers of businesses maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. If they fail to do so, and persons are injured as a result of the unsafe condition, the injured may sue for lost wages, medical bills, and other damages.

To win a slip and fall case in Florida, you must meet several statutory requirements. The 4th District Court of Appeal recently ruled on a woman’s slip and fall case, determining that her lawsuit failed to meet those requirements.

In McCarthy v. Broward College, the plaintiff sued Broward College after she allegedly slipped and fell on an “unidentified liquid” that was on an elevator on their Coconut Creek campus in 2011. Broward College moved for summary judgment, which is a judgment based on the pleadings. The College argued that the Plaintiff could not prove that the College had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, which is one of the statutory requirements (based on Fla. Stat. sec. 768.0755). The trial court agreed with Broward College and granted summary judgment in its favor.

First, the Third District determined that Broward College was indeed a business establishment. By definition, a business establishment is considered “‘a location where business is conducted, goods are made or stored or processed or where services are rendered.’” A college campus is certainly an establishment where “services are rendered” for a fee. Therefore, the statutory requirements for business establishments apply when attempting to prove a slip and fall case at its campus and Section 768.0755, Florida Statutes, applies, which states:

(1) If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it. Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that:

(2) (a) The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition; or (b) The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.

(3) This section does not affect any common-law duty of care owed by a person or entity in possession or control of a business premises.

Pursuant to this statute, the court next found that the Plaintiff failed to prove a slip and fall in this case: she introduced no evidence regarding how long the dangerous condition existed before the fall, that wet conditions occurred with regularity in the area where the plaintiff fell, or of active negligence by the College’s employees.

The Plaintiff claimed that the liquid in the elevator was rainwater; however, evidence indicated that elevator had been inspected fifty minutes prior to the incident and there was no evidence that it rained at Broward College during this fifty minute period. While “evidence that no inspection had been made during a particular period of time prior to an accident may warrant an inference that the dangerous condition existed long enough so that the exercise of reasonable care would have resulted in discovery,” the court in this case found that when considering large expanses, like a college campus or an outdoor park, greater intervals may pass between inspections before an inference of negligence attaches. As such, the Court found that inspecting the area fifty minutes prior to the incident does not warrant an inference of negligence.

Additionally, no evidence was offered to prove negligence on the part of employees of the College or that this dangerous condition occurred with regularity where she fell.

Therefore, the court found that the trial court correctly ruled for the College in this case. There were insufficient facts, “absent an impermissible stacking of inferences,” to find that the college was liable for the woman’s fall and resulting damages.

Slip and fall cases can be challenging to prove; however, if you are the victim of a slip and fall case, it’s best to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible after the incident occurs. The attorneys at Brooks Law Group are here to help. Call us today.

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