Florida Court Discusses Liability of Corporate Officers for Accidents

Many retail stores are national corporations that designate executive staff to overlook each store location. Thus, if a person is hurt in an accident in a store, the question may arise as to whether the corporation, an executive officer, or both are liable for the individual’s harm. The liability of a corporate officer of a retail store for injuries sustained in a slip and fall accident was the topic of a ruling recently issued by a Florida court. If you were hurt while shopping, you might be owed damages, and you should speak to a skillful Florida premises liability attorney to evaluate your options.

The Plaintiff’s Injury and Subsequent Lawsuit

It is reported that the plaintiff was a customer at the defendant’s store when she was injured in a slip and fall accident. The cause of her fall was wine that had leaked out of a shopping basket and onto the floor. The defendant executive team leader was working at the time but did not see the plaintiff fall. He spoke to the plaintiff after the fall but denied being aware of the spill or causing the spill.

Allegedly, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendants. The defendants moved the matter to federal court, arguing that the defendant executive, who would destroy complete diversity, was fraudulently joined. The plaintiff filed a motion to remand, which the court ultimately granted.

Liability of a Corporate Officer

To prove a joinder is fraudulent, a defendant must prove by convincing and clear evidence either that there is no way the plaintiff can recover from the fraudulently joined defendant or that the plaintiff pled fraudulent facts to bring the defendant into state court. Thus, in the subject case, the court turned to the issue of whether the defendant executive could be liable for the plaintiff’s harm.

Under Florida law, executives or agents of a corporation can be liable in tort if they participate in the tort, even if their acts are within the scope of employment. To establish liability, though, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant executive owed a duty to the plaintiff and that the defendant personally, rather than vicariously or technically, breached the duty owed. In instances in which a reasonable person would have taken action, the failure to act may demonstrate active negligence. An executive cannot be held accountable simply because of the general responsibility for performing some function, however.

In the subject case, the court noted that the defendant executive had a duty to exercise due care in the inspection, operation, and maintenance of the store and to warn of any dangerous condition. Thus, as the plaintiff pled the defendant failed to perform these duties, the plaintiff adequately set forth a negligence claim against the defendant executive, and if her facts were proven, could recover against him. As such, the matter was remanded.

Meet with a Dedicated Florida Attorney

Slip and fall accidents are common in retail stores, and in many cases, they are caused by the careless failure to maintain stores in a safe condition. If you were harmed in a slip and fall accident in a retail store, the dedicated Florida attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the full amount of compensation recoverable under the law. You can reach us through the online form or by calling 800-283-7442 to set up a meeting.

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