Florida Appeals Court Overturns Summary Judgment in Fairgrounds Negligence Case

In a recent case, a Florida appellate court overturned a lower court’s grant of summary judgment in a negligence case involving injuries a man sustained from a large balloon. In Peterson v. Flare Fittings, Inc., the plaintiff was hit in the head by a 10-foot balloon while attending a sport and trade show, which took place at a major theme park venue. The balloon had been tethered to a nearby tree.

Suffering pain and dazedness after the impact, the man reported the event to a worker for the event, who then removed the balloon. According to the plaintiff, a manager for the theme park informed him that he would be compensated for the injuries he sustained from the balloon impact. The manager also instructed the plaintiff to seek immediate medical attention.

On the same day the injury occurred, the man sought medical treatment, including medication and x-rays. Two days later, the plaintiff competed in a paintball competition event that took place at the same theme park venue where he was struck in the head with the balloon. Participation in the paintball event required the man to execute a liability waiver, which he did sign. The man was eliminated from the competition on the first day, and he returned to his home state after the next few days.

Around four years later, the plaintiff filed his lawsuit against three companies involved with the sport and trade show where he was struck with the balloon, alleging negligence theories against each one. In response to the complaint, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. The owner of the theme park alleged that the liability waiver the man executed two days after the event constituted an express waiver of both future and past claims against the theme park. The remaining defendants alleged that the plaintiff had failed to show that they owed the plaintiff a duty of care.

After the trial court granted all three defendants’ motions for summary judgment, the plaintiff appealed. In his appellate brief, the man claimed that the waiver of liability was ambiguous regarding its scope and that the remaining defendants had not met their burden in proving they were entitled to summary judgment.

The appellate court reversed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment, finding that although the evidence provided in the complaint was tenuous, it was sufficient to withstand the motion for summary judgment. Additionally, the defendants failed to offer sufficient evidence to show that they were not liable for the man’s injuries.

Regarding the release, the appellate court stated that Florida law only recognizes leases as all encompassing when the intent for the waiver to have such a substantial scope is “made clear and unequivocal.” Applied to this case, the waiver’s language was silent on whether it applied only to the paintballing event, or to any events occurring at the theme park venue.

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries as the result of another person’s or company’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, we have helped many personal injury victims seek the compensation they deserve after suffering painful and stressful injuries. Serving clients throughout Naples, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral, we offer a free consultation to help you learn about your rights. Call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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