July 20, 2016

Florida Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Dunkin Donuts Slip and Fall Case

wet tile floorIn Suker v. White Family Limited Partnership, et al., the plaintiff alleged that she suffered injuries at a Dunkin Donuts location in Florida. In her complaint, she claimed that the defendant knew or should have known about the existence of the dangerous condition that allegedly caused her injuries. The plaintiff slipped and fell when she entered the Dunkin Donuts location, and she argued that the tiled entrance was wet and unreasonably dangerous. Also, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to provide any warnings about the slipperiness of the entryway when it was wet.

In general, property owners have a duty to ensure that their premises are reasonably safe and that they have provided warnings to guests or patrons about any known or potentially dangerous conditions.

According to Florida Statutes Section 768.0755, when "a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition." Also, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant should have taken prompt steps to address the dangerous condition, such as providing warnings, cleaning up the dangerous condition, or taking other precautionary steps.

The statute provides a number of measures that the plaintiff can use to show that the defendant had constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition. First, the plaintiff can prove that the condition was present at the business establishment for such a length of time that the defendant should have discovered it if it were exercising ordinary care. Next, the plaintiff can establish constructive knowledge by proving that the dangerous condition had occurred routinely and that it was foreseeable to the defendant that the dangerous condition could or would occur.

The defendant moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the order, concluding that the plaintiff did not prove that there was a material issue of fact regarding whether the defendant knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that caused the plaintiff's injuries. On a motion for summary judgment, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law if there are no genuine issues of material fact in the case that would warrant determination by a jury. According to the trial court, since the plaintiff had not shown a material issue of fact, the defendant was entitled to summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed.

On review to the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal, the court concluded that the plaintiff had filed three witness depositions that suggested that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge that the tiled entryway to the business establishment posed a danger to patrons of suffering a slip and fall accident. The appellate court also highlighted that one of the deponents was the defendant's employee. Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the order granting the defendant's motion for summary judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

If you have suffered injuries in a slip and fall accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our skilled team of personal injury lawyers has assisted accident victims involved in premises liability actions throughout Southwest Florida, including in Naples, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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