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Slip-And-Fall Case Demonstrates Burden on Plaintiffs

When you slip and fall in a business establishment because of their failure to keep an area clean, you should expect to be able to be compensated for your medical issues and pain. Although a recent Florida law makes it harder to prevail, an unresolved legal issue means that the burden may fall back on the business in some cases.

Slip-And-Fall In a Restaurant

Around this time of year in 2005, a Florida mother sent her young son to escort his sister, who was feeling sick, to the restroom at a local Chick-Fil-A restaurant. On the way back, his sister cautioned her brother to step out of the path of an incoming man in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the children or their mother, a puddle of water nearly two feet wide– not just from a spilled drink– had been left in the walkway, seemingly emanating from beneath an “employees only” doorway. The child slipped and fell, smashing his hip against the ground and his head on a door jamb.

In Florida, restaurants generally have a duty to maintain their floors so they are safe for their customers. If you can prove that the employees knew of the condition–or even that they didn’t know, but should have because of how long the puddle sat there unattended– you can recover under Florida law. Accordingly, the family filed a lawsuit against the restaurant.

Nearly 10 years later, the lawsuit is still raging on and, in fact, the case has just been sent back to trial court.

Complex Legal Disagreements Delay Resolution

The delay stems back to a 2010 law passed the Florida legislature. The statute explains and narrows what “should have known means” in this context. Now, people injured in a slip-and-fall can only show that the establishment “should have known” about a dangerous condition like a puddle because either (a) the puddle was there for so long that, if the business exercised ordinary case, they would have known about it, or (b) the condition happened so regularly that it was foreseeable. Without a surveillance video or proof of a chronic problem, this can be difficult to prove.

However, it is significant because it places a heavy burden on the already injured party. The law overturned a 2001 Florida Supreme Court decision that formerly gave the business, not the injured person, the job of proving that they took reasonable care. Today, an injured person can lose if they fail to present this evidence, even if the business doesn’t even try to prove its case. In this case, the injured family showed circumstantial evidence to suggest that the water came from the other side of the door which, if accepted, would put the responsibility on the business. In response, Chick-Fil-A failed to present any evidence to disagree. Under the new law, however, the establishment would still prevail.

The question that delayed this family’s case was whether the new law applied. Florida appellate courts disagree about whether the law applies to cases like this one, which was in the pipeline when the law was passed. In a temporary victory for plaintiffs’ rights, the court held that the law did not apply retroactively. Changes in the law can affect your rights, so if you slipped and fell in a business establishment, promptly contact Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney Scott Newmark today for assistance.

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