Dan Irving Cytryn, Esq.: April 2009 Archives

April 29, 2009

Playgrounds, Gyms, And Recreational Facilities Can Be Dangerous To Our Children

Hidden dangers are present all around while our children are busy playing. Florida law allows recovery for injuries due to negligence conditions that exist in recreation facilities, gyms, after-care facilities, and any activities whether organized or not. Coral Springs Florida is no different than the rest of the country.

I have the pleasure of coaching my nine year old child in a basketball recreational league (except for the fact that we lost our first six games until tonight, when we finally pulled out a victory in overtime--I was pulling my hair out--even my Rogaine was no longer helping me!). Since I've been coaching this year, there's a metal bench that the kids sit on, one side which is affixed to the ground, the other side which is loose, and if anyone sits on it they can fall off and suffer a head injury. Despite a couple months going by with this dangerous condition on a basketball court where children play virtually every day, nobody has bothered to repair this condition. I guess it's going to be up to me to send a certified letter to the City of Coral Springs to fix what is an obvious defective condition waiting for an injury to happen.

There are many other conditions in places where children play which are accidents waiting to happen. Playgrounds used to have monkeybars with gravel or concrete below them, an obvious and ridiculous hazard when a child falls off. Indoor basketball courts have walls that teenagers can run into, and unless protected by padding, present dangerous conditions for anybody who is playing the sport with intensity.

Florida law allows an injured person or child to recover for a dangerous condition that exists on any premises. The landowner or person in charge of the premises has a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. If the person in charge of the area does not make sure the property is not in a hazardous condition, then a claim, or a lawsuit is a viable alternative for a child or a person injured by a hazardous condition.

A new study claims that playground injuries are more dangerous to children than car accidents. The Brain Injury Resource Foundation states that playground injuries brought almost one million children to the emergency room in a particular six year period. A very important analysis of playground injuries is discussed in an article entitled "School Injuries--From the Playground to the Emergency Room".

If a child is seriously injured in an accident involving a child due to negligence, whether it occurs on the playground, in the gym, or at somebody's house, a lawyer should be consulted to ensure the best interest of the child and to protect the child and the family's rights.

UPDATE: July 31, 2009 -- As an indication of the persistent danger of injury and death posed by playgrounds, USA Today recently released an article which reiterated the risks faced by children.  According to the article, nearly 200,000 children are seen each year in hospital emergency rooms for injuries sustained while playing on playground equipment.  Of those, approximately 15 children die each year from their playground injuries and another 90,000 suffer serious injuries including broken bones, head injury, and amputation.  The article suggests that although playgrounds are safer than in decades past, children continue fall victim to playgrounds that are poorly designed or maintained and from other dangers such potential lead poisoning from recycled tires which are often used to cushion falls.

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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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April 26, 2009

Florida Crime Victims May Be Entitled To Money Damages For Injury Or Death Due To Inadequate Security

Florida crime victims who suffer serious injuries at business establishments such as shopping centers, malls, nightclubs, condominiums, apartment complexes, bars, banks, restaurants and even fast food establishments may have a claim for money damages for their personal injuries for negligence against the owner or management of the property. The main Broward County newspaper reports that Coconut Creek had one of the largest increases in crime with a 30 percent increase, while Fort Lauderdale also saw a 7 percent overall crime rate increase in 2008 with rapes, and robberies on the rise. A police spokesman said the increase was primarily in non-violent crimes, and attributed the increase to the bad economy. 

In an article entitled "America's Most Dangerous Cities", Forbes magazine ranked Miami Florida as third worst metropolitan area (not sure if "metropolitan area" means Dade County) in the country, with more than 950 violent crimes committed per 100,000 people. In positive news, it was reported that a Palm Beach County Grand Jury was instrumental in reducing gang violence and the number of deaths there, such as the incident in a Boynton Beach Mall that sent shoppers scrambling for cover in a gang related shooting there in 2007.The Sun-Sentinel reports that the number of murders in Palm Beach County in 2008 remained the same over the previous year, 96 murders.

Property owners have a duty pursuant to Florida law to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition, and to protect persons on their premises with adequate security precautions if they know, or should know, that crime is reasonably likely to occur. This can include some or all of the following measures: fencing in their property, providing security guards, providing surveillance, particularly in areas known to be high crime areas, or in locations that have a previous history of crimes, with violent crime history requiring the highest level of security.

If property owners don't take these measures, and they were on notice that they should have provided some or additional security, the owner and/or maintainer of the property may be held liable for all damages, including lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, disability, physical impairment, and inconvenience..

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