The plaintiff in Feris v. Club Country of Fort Walton Beach alleged that he slipped on a liquid substance and suffered injuries as a result. The plaintiff claimed that he slipped on the defendant establishment’s dance floor. According to the plaintiff, several other patrons were present on the dance floor at the time of his fall, all holding drinks in their hands.
While it was the establishment’s policy to prohibit beverages on the dance floor, the plaintiff asserted that the rule was not enforced. For example, the plaintiff testified in a deposition that employees of the establishment were present when his fall occurred and were not preventing patrons from bringing drinks on to the dance floor. The plaintiff also testified that he did not notice any liquid substances present on the dance floor until after he had fallen and observed the substance, smelling of alcohol, on his clothing.
Another witness testified that she observed the plaintiff fall, presumably on a liquid substance. In fact, according to the witness, an employee then wiped the area on which the plaintiff had fallen. Again, she affirmed the plaintiff’s contention that many people present on the dance floor were holding drinks and that no policy prohibiting drinks was enforced. A second witness testified in deposition that he observed the floor was wet in the vicinity in which the plaintiff fell. Furthermore, he noted that other patrons had placed their drinks on the speakers, which were located near the area of the plaintiff’s fall.
The defendant establishment filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims. The defendant argued that the plaintiff did not prove the establishment had knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition. The defendant further contended that there was no evidence as to how long the liquid substance had been present on the premise’s floor. The trial court agreed with the defendant and granted summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the First District noted that the plaintiff was a business invitee of the defendant, which triggered a duty of reasonable care. The appeals court held that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence presented in discovery to defeat summary judgment. According to the court, the evidence indicated that the business had allowed the dangerous condition to exist, or that the condition existed with regularity. As such, the court held, it could be inferred that the establishment knew or reasonably should have known of the existence of the dangerous condition.
Of significant note, the appellate court consulted Florida’s recent statute regarding an establishment’s knowledge of a dangerous condition. In 2010, the Florida legislature changed the law to require a patron to establish that the defendant business knew or constructively knew that a dangerous condition existed. The appeals court found that the defendant in this case had constructive knowledge of the liquid substance present on the dance floor, regardless of which statute applied. Therefore, according to the court, a retroactive application of the recent statute was immaterial.
If you or someone you know has suffered from injuries resulting from a slip and fall accident in or around Fort Myers, Naples, or Cape Coral, it is crucial to obtain a skilled and aggressive attorney to protect your interests. The Southwest Florida premises liability attorneys at Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano keep up with recent legal changes and developments and have considerable experience trying slip and fall cases. For a complementary case evaluation, contact us online or call toll-free at (800) 238-7442 today.
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