Articles Posted in Civil Law

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Florida premises liability lawyerIn any Florida premises liability case, the question of whether the defendant is responsible for the harm someone else suffered on their property often depends heavily on the unique circumstances of the case. Sometimes, that circumstance is a giant ice cream cone.

See: Greene v. Twistee Treat USA et al., recently before Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal.

Normally, people have an obligation to watch out for potential hazards when they’re on someone else’s property. They have a duty to avoid any open and obvious dangers. But that does not excuse property owners (businesses in particular) from their duty to anticipate potential dangers – even if they are open and obvious – and to warn guests of them. This is especially true if the property owner could have anticipated that the patron would be distracted or that it would have been so long since the last time they saw the hazard that they could have easily forgotten it.

In the case of the Twistee Treat tripping hazard, the 2nd DCA ruled that the “novel architecture” of the ice cream shop itself could be distracting enough that patrons might be forgiven not noticing/avoiding some hazards as they approach. Continue reading

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Fort Myers wet floor signWet walking surfaces are a top cause of slip-and-fall injuries in Florida. But are businesses required to post a “wet floor” sign to warn you?

A wet floor sign may indeed play a big role in the strength of your case, but the simple answer to the question about whether Florida has a “wet floor sign law” is no.

As a Fort Myers slip-and-fall injury attorney, I have successfully handled many of these premises liability claims. It is important to understand that these cases are often more complicated than they may initially appear. The outcome will depend heavily on the factual circumstances. The presence (or lack thereof) of a wet floor sign is just one of those. Continue reading

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Whether you are a construction worker, nurse, or teacher, if you are injured on-the-job in a Florida slip-and-fall, workers’ compensation may be your sole source of financial recovery. Workers’ compensation is considered the exclusive remedy for most work-related injuries in Florida, meaning it is the only recourse one has against an employer. Workers do not need to prove negligence so long as they were hurt in the course and scope of employment, and in turn the employer covers the cost of treatment and a portion of lost wages during recovery.

However, workers’ compensation tends to fall short of the damages (pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment, etc.) one could recover in a personal injury lawsuit. Because the exclusive remedy provision of Florida workers’ compensation law makes it almost impossible to win a personal injury case against one’s own employer, our South Florida slip-and-fall injury lawyers would primarily be concerned with the potential liability of a third-party property owner/controller or other liable parties. This would be someone other than your direct employer. (Note: Independent contractors are often not  considered “employees” for workers’ compensation purposes and thus may be allowed to pursue injury claims against the company for whom they were working.)

Slip-and-fall cases are a type of premises liability. Premises liability is a legal concept referring to an injury caused by an unsafe or defective condition on someone else’s property. To win, a plaintiff must prove negligence (failure to exercise reasonable care) in owning/maintaining the property. The mere fact of a dangerous condition or occurrence of injury does not automatically mean the property owner was negligent. In most cases, you must prove the property owner knew or reasonably should have known the site was unsafe and failed to take proper steps to address the danger. (The exact proof burden for slip-and-fall injury claims is spelled out in F.S. 768.0755.)

It is important that if you are seriously injured at work and believe a third-party was at least partially responsible that you speak with an experienced injury lawyer about your legal options. You may have grounds to pursue additional damages beyond workers’ compensation.

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Naples slip-and-fall injuryTo prevail in a Florida slip-and-fall injury lawsuit, plaintiffs need to prove the business establishment had either actual or constructive notice of the hazardous condition, as outlined in F.S. 768.0755. Similar rules exist in other states, such as Wisconsin, where the state supreme court recently held there was sufficient evidence of constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition – even if the plaintiff could not prove exactly how long the slippery substance had been there.

Before detailing what happened in this case, our South Florida slip-and-fall injury lawyers think it is important to explain the difference between actual and constructive knowledge in a premises liability case.

The actual notice requires evidence that a business was actually aware of a particular danger in that specific place and time. Constructive notice, meanwhile, requires presenting circumstantial evidence that shows:

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Florida slip-and-fall lawsuitGuests who are injured on someone else’s property may have the option of filing a claim to be compensated for injuries by the property owner. These are a type of premises liability claims, and one example is if a patron at a grocery store is injured in a slip-and-fall accident on a “transitory foreign substance”. To prevail in a Florida slip-and-fall lawsuit, F.S. 768.0755 requires the plaintiff’s needs to show the defendant property owner/manager had either actual or constructive knowledge of the slipping hazard. A “transitory foreign substance” was defined by the Supreme Court of Florida as “any liquid or solid substance, item or object located where it does not belong.” Owens v. Publix Supermarkets, Inc., 802 So.2d 315, 317 (Fla. 2001)

Actual knowledge means the property owner was fully aware of that particular danger at that specific place and time. Proving this can be tough. Constructive knowledge is how most of these cases are established.

Constructive knowledge can be established by laying out circumstantial evidence that shows:

  • The hazardous condition existed on site for so long that the business establishment should have known of it were they exercising ordinary care;
  • The dangerous condition occurred with such regularity that it was foreseeable.

This element is critical. Recently, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal of a Florida slip-and-fall lawsuit of Oliver v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. on the basis that the plaintiff had failed to establish defendant’s constructive knowledge of a slip hazard. Continue reading

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Florida premises liabilityProperty owners in Florida are expected to maintain their site in a condition that is safe for patrons, guests, and residents. However, in premises liability cases where an injured person knew or should have known the potential for danger, property owners often raise something called the “assumption of risk defense.”

Assumption of risk is a legal doctrine that holds that a person cannot recover compensation for injuries they suffered by voluntarily exposing themselves to a known hazard. In other words, the property owner argues that the person who was injured knew about the risk but took the chance of being injured anyway.

In some states, if a property owner can prove the assumption of risk, the plaintiff will not be allowed to recover any damages for their injuries. In Florida though, it works a little differently because of something called, comparative fault;  as outlined in F.S. 768.81. Comparative fault allows individuals to pursue claims for damages – even if they are partially to blame. However, the amount they can collect will be reduced by their percentage of fault. So if a plaintiff wins $100,000 in damages, but the court finds the plaintiff was 30 percent at-fault, the most plaintiff will be awarded is $70,000.

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Florida medical negligenceThe notion of the “ideal” body shape is ever-changing, and in Florida, plastic surgeons are in high demand. However, it appears the lure of steep profit margins has led some physicians who are not uniquely qualified, experienced or careful to offer complex medical procedures at rock-bottom prices – often with tragic results. A recent series of botched cosmetic surgeries in South Florida has led to a spate of medical negligence lawsuits, a change in Florida law (effective 1/1/20) and a pending Florida Supreme Court ruling.

Our South Florida medical malpractice attorneys know the one procedure sparking the greatest concern of late is the “Brazilian butt lift,” or BBL. The procedure, which aims to enhance one’s rear with a transfer of fat to the gluteal region from the abdomen, lower back, thighs and/or hips, requires precise and careful application. The greatest risk is the possibility of a heart or pulmonary fat embolism. This happens when the fat is accidentally injected deep into the muscle tissue, making its way into the bloodstream and causing obstruction of major blood vessels of the heart or lungs. Another potential danger is that of punctured internal organs. Both have proven life-threatening and/or fatal.

NBC-6 reports more than a dozen women have died in South Florida in recent years during or shortly after having a BBL. Several of their families have filed medical negligence /wrongful death lawsuits. They assert that the deaths and injuries that occurred were not the result of unavoidable complications, but rather serious mistakes by the medical professionals involved.

Factors that led to a higher risk of complications in BBL procedures included:

  • Performance of the procedure by an unlicensed practitioner;
  • Using injectables and fillers instead of fat;
  • Unsterile instruments/operating area;
  • Intramuscular injection of fat.
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Fort Myers tourist injury lawyerFederal job site safety regulators declined to fine an Orlando water park after closing an investigation into a series of electric shocks sustained by guests and workers earlier this year, but personal injury lawsuits could still be filed if any guests were hurt. Five lifeguards were reportedly hospitalized and several visitors were shocked, but media reports do not indicate anyone suffered a serious or lasting injury.

Florida theme parks are a significant draw in the Sunshine State, and owners/operators owe their guests a substantial duty of care to ensure they are not faced with unreasonable danger.

In this case, guests and lifeguards at Universal Studios’ Volcano Bay water park reported feeling the shocks – in the water and on the wet pavement near it – for hours before the park shut down.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concluded the danger arose from a  grounding rod that was mistakenly driven through an electrical conduit way back when the park was being constructed. This led to damage to the electrical wiring, resulting in an electrical current being fed through the ground – ultimately reaching water and wet ground surfaces. Electrical readings on the sidewalk’s edge of the water measured between 20 and 30 volts of electricity.

Even 2nd graders know water-plus-electricity is a dangerous combination. This can be true even at relatively low voltage. As explained by The Ohio State University’s Department of Physics, the body’s actual resistance to an electric shock depends on the point of contact (where on the body it happens) and the condition of the skin (whether it’s wet or dry). That is why a 75-volt shock can be just as deadly as a 750-volt shock. Continue reading

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Fort Myers medical malpractice wrongful deathThe Florida Second District Court of Appear recently urged the Florida Supreme Court to revisit the question of whether a largely debunked “insurance crisis” still justifies limiting – or altogether prohibiting – damages to survivors in some medical malpractice wrongful death cases. As we will further detail in our post, the FL 2nd DCA sent a certified question to the Florida supreme court that centers around FL statute 768.21 and the Florida wrongful death damages cap.

As our Fort Myers medical malpractice attorneys can explain, state law currently bars adult children from recovering any non-economic damages in wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuits; this specific Florida wrongful death damages cap can leave families suffering and give bad doctors a free pass for wrongdoing. The effect of our law is that a negligent doctor or hospital may be held liable to pay non-economic damages for a patient who lives, has minor children and/or a surviving spouse, but not if that same patient dies with only adult children as survivors. This raises equal protection of constitutional concerns.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal has asked the state high court to reconsider this, calling it “a matter of great importance,” after ruling it had no choice but to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the surviving adult children of a woman who allegedly died as a result of medical malpractice. Continue reading

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UPDATE: Since this writing, the Florida Supreme Court has done an about-face, deciding the more rigorous Daubert analysis will in fact be the new evidentiary standard in Florida cases, both civil and criminal. This will mean the bar to bring – and prevail – in Florida injury lawsuits is raised. In its May 23, 2019 decision  In re: Amendments to the Florida Evidence Code, No. SC19-107, the court (now with three new governor-appointed justices since the last ruling) held Florida’s evidence standard should align with that used by federal courts and most other states. The court previously rejected adoption of Daubert following a 2013 legislative amendment, citing procedural issues and “grave constitutional concerns.” In this 5-2 ruling, the court now says those concerns are unfounded.

On October 15, 2018, the Florida Supreme Court, settled the long-running debate about the appropriate admissibility standard for expert opinions thought Florida state courts.  In a case that began with a plaintiff who developed mesothelioma after years of exposure to asbestos, the Florida Supreme Court held that Frye, not Daubert, is the appropriate test.

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A sharply divided Florida Supreme Court on Monday said a controversial 2013 law about expert-witness testimony was an unconstitutional infringement on the court’s authority.

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