Florida Appellate Court Reverses Denial of Leave to Amend in Bar Fight Premises Liability Case

In the recent case of Faber v. Pasco, Inc., the plaintiff alleged that she suffered injuries while patronizing The Karl Reef in 2013, which is a bar located in Pasco County. According to her complaint, a fight broke out while she was at the bar. The plaintiff’s lawsuit named the owner of the bar, Joseph Karl, and Karl of Pasco as the alleged property owner. She asserted a cause of action for negligence, stating that the owner was liable pursuant to a premises liability theory. The plaintiff and the manager of the bar, Michelle Karl, were located in close proximity to the fight when it broke out. The plaintiff alleged that she was attacked intentionally and fell after another bar patron struck her.

During her deposition, however, the plaintiff testified that she fell when a fight between other bar patrons broke out, resulting in her being shoved incidentally and falling. As a result of this testimony, Joseph Karl and Karl of Pasco filed a motion for summary judgment. In their motion, they alleged that the plaintiff’s deposition testimony contradicted the allegations contained in the complaint, and as a result there was no material dispute that the defendants lacked actual notice of the potential danger that the plaintiff faced.

To recover compensation against a property owner, the plaintiff must show that the defendant knew or should have known that a dangerous condition existed on the property and that the defendant failed to address the dangerous condition or provide a warning to patrons about the dangerous condition. There are a variety of ways that the plaintiff can show the defendant had actual notice of the harm, including through constructive notice. In a constructive notice theory, you must show that the condition existed for such a length of time that the defendant would have observed it if he or she was employing reasonable care in maintaining his or her premises. The plaintiff must also show that the condition occurred with such regularity that it was reasonably foreseeable.

Before the court held a hearing on the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff filed a motion seeking leave to amend her complaint to remove Joseph Karl as a defendant and adding Michelle Karl with counts of negligence and intentional battery asserted against her. The plaintiff contended that Karl of Pasco was the owner of the bar and that she suffered injuries when Michelle Karl attacked her intentionally. In opposition to the motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff filed an affidavit stating that she improperly assumed the sequence of events that occurred on the night she was allegedly injured.

The trial granted summary judgment in the defendant’s favor and denied the plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend. The plaintiff appealed. On review, the Second District Court of Appeal concluded that the lower court erred in denying the motion for leave to amend. The appellate court concluded that there was sufficient testimony from the defendant’s depositions showing that it was reasonable for the plaintiff to have falsely assumed the sequence of events leading up to her injuries. The court also reversed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment, stating that the lower court granted summary judgment based solely on the erroneous belief that the plaintiff’s proposed amended complaint would be futile.

If you have been injured on another person’s property, they may owe you compensation for your injuries and damages. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our premises liability lawyers provide skilled and compassionate legal counsel to victims throughout Southwest Florida, including in Fort Myers, Naples, and Cape Coral. Call us to schedule your free consultation at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online. Act soon–time may be running out on your claim.

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