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In Fort Myers Slip-and-Fall Lawsuits, Witness Statements May Be Key

Fort Myers slip and fall lawyerWitnesses can play a pivotal role in any Florida personal injury case – and that includes Fort Myers slip-and-fall lawsuits (also known as Premises Liability lawsuits). Sometimes with the ubiquitous presence of security and cell phone cameras, it’s easy to forget that the firsthand accounts of other people can be invaluable in helping us reconstruct what happened and who was at-fault.

Even with video evidence, some of the strategic reasons Fort Myers slip-and-fall injury attorneys will present witness testimony of an incident:

  • Corroboration. A witness – particularly one that has no connection to the plaintiff/injured person – can back up the plaintiff’s story. This not only bolsters the plaintiff’s credibility, but also strengthens their case by providing additional evidence of the defendant’s negligence. Judges and jurors are going to be more convinced of the testimony you’re providing if multiple other witnesses are consistently saying the same thing.
  • Observations you may have missed. When a person is seriously injured, their focus in that moment can sometimes narrow to the pain point. This might cause them to miss key bits of information that might prove crucial to the case. Witnesses can help fill in the blanks.
  • Establishing actual or constructive knowledge. Florida slip-and-fall claims aren’t easy to win. F.S. 768.0755, Florida’s slip-and-fall statute, requires evidence that the defendant/property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition on site and failed to take action to remedy it. It should noted that this statute affects only cases when a transitory foreign substance is involved- The witnesses are sometimes even employees of the defendant – sometimes provide this evidence by detailing their actual knowledge of the hazard (ex: “I saw the spill and told my manager, but nothing was done to fix it or warn customers”) or testimony that the condition had existed for some time or occurred with regularity (thereby establishing constructive knowledge).

To be useful in a Fort Myers slip-and-fall case, eyewitness testimony needs to come from a person with firsthand knowledge of relevant events, a good memory, a consistent story and decent credibility. They must also be willing to testify in court. While written statements can be helpful to your lawyer’s investigation, they may be considered inadmissible in court as hearsay without the witness’s willingness to swear to it under oath.

Recent Florida Slip-and-Fall Case Underscores Importance of Witness Testimony

One recent Florida slip-and-fall case before Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal collapsed largely due to the lack of corroborating witnesses to a key point in the plaintiff’s testimony. Fort Myers slip and fall injury attorney

According to court records, plaintiff went to brunch at a popular chain seafood restaurant with a group of friends. They were seated near the bar area, and plaintiff enjoyed both food and drinks while there. Near the end of the gathering, plaintiff stood up and made her way to the ladies’ room. However, she fell about 8-12 feet away from bathroom door, in a 12-inch puddle of liquid on tile flooring that was styled to look like hardwood. Plaintiff said she didn’t see the liquid before falling and wasn’t sure how long it had been there. She did notice several pieces of melting ice nearby as well.

Plaintiff said she informed a server coming around the corner that she had fallen on a water spill. The server reportedly responded that she was aware of the spill, and that she had meant to come back and clean it up. Unfortunately, plaintiff did not get the name or contact information for the server. She had a physical description, but the restaurant was not able to locate the “anonymous server” (as she’s referred to in the court case).

That statement by the server would likely have established the business’s “actual knowledge” of the hazard. Without it, plaintiff was hard-pressed to prove the restaurant was liable for her injury. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the restaurant, and the appellate court affirmed.

Although the outcome is unfortunate for the plaintiff, it serves as an important reminder to anyone considering filing a Fort Myers slip-and-fall claim in the future that witness statements can be essential. If you are at all able in the aftermath of such an incident, get the names and contact information of people with whom you spoke or those who may have seen what happened.

If you have been injured in Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, Cape Coral, Naples, or Key West, contact Garvin Injury Law at 800.977.7017 for a free consultation. 

Additional Resources:

Sentz v. Bonefish Grill, Nov. 15, 2023, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal

More Blog Entries:

Florida Premises Liability Case: Treat Shop Should Anticipate Tripping Hazard, Sept. 27, 2021, Fort Myers Injury Lawyer Blog

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