Florida Court Explains a Plaintiff’s Burden of Proof in a Slip and Fall Case

Slip and fall accidents regularly occur in businesses, and in many instances, they cause substantial harm. People hurt in falls are often able to recover damages, but merely showing that a spill happened is generally not adequate to prove liability. In a recent ruling, a Florida court explained a plaintiff’s burden of proof in a slip and fall case, in a matter in which the plaintiff was ultimately denied compensation. If you were harmed in a fall, you might be able to pursue claims for your losses, and you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.

The Plaintiff’s Fall

Reportedly, the plaintiff visited the defendant medical center to visit a friend. She was wearing flip-flops at the time and carrying bags of food and beverages. She took the elevator to the fourth floor and walked down the hall and past the nurses’ station when she abruptly fell in front of a utility room. She fractured her kneecap in the fall and subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, claiming it negligently failed to address the floor, which was wet, causing her fall.

Allegedly, the case proceeded to trial, and the defendant moved for a directed verdict, arguing the plaintiff failed to show the defendant had actual or constructive notice of any spill on the floor. The court denied the motion, and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant appealed.

Proving Liability in a Slip and Fall Case

On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion for a directed verdict. The court explained that under Florida law, in cases in which a plaintiff seeks to impose liability for a fall caused by a transitory substance in a business, the plaintiff must prove that the business knew or reasonably should have known of the presence of the substance.

The court explained that a plaintiff could establish constructive knowledge by showing via circumstantial evidence that the condition in question existed for so long that, if the business exercised ordinary care, it would have discovered it, or that the condition regularly occurred and as such, was foreseeable.

In the subject case, the plaintiff asserted the defendant should have had constructive knowledge of the spill and used circumstantial evidence to support her claim. Specifically, she did not see any liquid on the floor prior to or after her fall but believed that she fell due to a spill. Similarly, none of the witnesses to the fall observed any liquid on the floor. The court noted that while the plaintiff could use circumstantial evidence to prove her case, the evidence she produced was lacking. Thus, it reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted Florida Attorney

Business owners have an obligation to maintain their premises in safe conditions, and when they neglect their duties, it often leads to harmful slip and fall accidents. If you were hurt in a fall, you might be owed damages, and you should meet with an attorney. The trusted Florida lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A., can advise you of your rights and help you to fight for a just outcome. You can reach us at 800-283-7442 or via the online form to set up a meeting.




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