In premises liability cases, the defendant will often argue that the plaintiff sustained injuries outside of the subject property and will often seek discovery to that effect. If a plaintiff fails to comply with discovery requests and provide the defendant with the information sought, it may result in adverse consequences. It is unlikely to constitute grounds for dismissal based on fraudulent behavior, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling. If you were hurt by a dangerous condition you encountered on someone else’s property, you could be owed damages and should speak to a trusted Florida premises liability lawyer regarding your potential claims.
The Plaintiff’s Harm
It is reported that the plaintiff visited the defendant’s restaurant in September 2015. While she was there, she went to the bathroom, and as she was washing her hands, the sink fell from the wall and struck her in her arm. She was unable to finish her meal due to the pain in her arm and went to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with a contusion. She then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging its negligence led to her injuries.
Allegedly, the defendant engaged in the discovery, including deposing the plaintiff and requesting documents, but believed that she was not fully disclosing other accidents and her treatment for prior injuries. The defendant then moved to have the plaintiff’s claims dismissed for fraud, or alternatively for sanctions.
Consequences of Failing to Abide by Discovery Rules
Federal courts have the authority to control proceedings, which includes the right to impose an appropriate and reasonable sanction. Courts must exercise this right with discretion and restraint, however, and case law has demonstrated that it is clear that the key to exercising power to impose sanctions is a finding of bad faith.
The court admitted that the term bad faith was vague but stated that it could take several forms in litigation. For example, if a party disrupts or delays litigation, it may constitute bad faith. Fraud also constitutes bad faith, as does the act of raising a claim for the sole purpose of harassing an opponent. The court explained, though, that a finding of fraud on the court is reserved for the most inappropriate conduct, such as the fabrication of evidence or bribery of a judge or juror.
Fraud must be proven by convincing and clear evidence of a reprehensible plan to improperly sway the court in its decision. In the subject case, the court found that while the plaintiff failed to fully engage in the discovery process, the defendant had not met its burden of proving she committed fraud. Thus, the court denied its motion.
Meet with a Trusted Florida Attorney
Business owners have a duty to maintain their properties in a safe condition, and if they do not and people suffer harm as a result, they should be held accountable. If you were injured in an accident caused by a negligent property owner, it is prudent to meet with an attorney about your options. The trusted Florida premises liability lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can advise you of your potential claims and help you to pursue the best outcome possible under the circumstances. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to set up a conference.