Slip or Trip and Fall: April 2009 Archives

April 28, 2009

Florida Slip And Fall Law Amongst The Most Favorable Nationally

The Florida legislature has enacted laws to make it easier for victims of negligence of business establishments to collect money damages for their injuries resulting from slip and fall injuries. Before the law was changed, it was much more difficult to be successful in a case against restaurants, grocery stores, and other business establishments in a slip and fall accident.

A review of the case law shows many previous decisions arising from lawsuits against entities such as Winn Dixie, Publix, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot.

Falls are known to cause more than half a million people to seek treatment for injuries in hospital emergency rooms annually in the United States, Further, many deaths actually result from slip and falls, either as a direct result (head trauma, brain injury), or indirectly (the morbidity of the elderly from a hip fracture for example, resulting in death).

Before the change in the law, a person claiming injury from a slip and fall incident had to show that the place where the incident occurred:

1.  Knew, or should have known that the item that caused the slip was on the floor, or

2. Caused the item that caused the slip and fall to get on the floor (an employee dropped it, negligent cleaning, etc.), or

3. Failed to warn of a known dangerous condition.

The previous law made it difficult for many claimants to succeed. If the person could not prove that the item was on the floor for a period long enough for the owner to know (usually five to fifteen minutes), the person suing could not get the case to the jury, a "summary judgment" would be entered against them, and the person suing would be thrown out of court. It was as silly as trying to prove how long something was on the ground by showing that a fruit skin was dried out, or that a banana peel was brown instead of yellow.

Thankfully, in 2001, in the seminal case of Owens v. Publix, the Florida Supreme Court changed the law, making it much easier to get a case to the jury, and accordingly, get a payment from an insurance company if there was a foreign object or substance on the floor, placing the burden on the establishment to disprove its negligence. The legislature, lobbied strongly by these business establishments, changed to a slightly more stringent standard, but still allowing a jury to decide the case if there was a foreign substance or such as a liquid or any object on the floor. That is the standard that remains today.

Our law firm has helped frame the law in the State of Florida pertaining to injuries involving falls. Most recently, in the case of Ventimiglia v. T.G.I Friday's, this law firm handled a case which held that an injured person could present evidence of the restaurant's negligent method of operation. In the case of Glanzberg v. Kaufmann, our law firm handled a case that held that clarified the law that similar accidents that occur after the sued upon incident could be admitted to prove that a condition is dangerous. In the case of Hilliard v. Speedway Superamerica, our firm helped clarify the law that persons injured by certain dangerous conditions could present their cases to the jury.

Our firm is pleased that our efforts and the efforts of other personal injury lawyers combined with court decisions and legislative action has resulted in safer conditions in businesses throughout the country. Restaurant floors have become safer, property owners have become more diligent in watching out for and preventing dangerous conditions, and as a result, we are lucky to live in what certainly is the safest country in the world.

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