A Florida court determined that a woman who was injured after falling on a slippery bathroom floor was not negligent for wearing high heels to work. The recent case before Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal arose from a typical slip-and-fall set of facts. While at work, the plaintiff visited the bathroom and was injured after slipping on the unusually slippery floor. She filed a premises liability case against the building’s owner. After a bench trial, the court held that the parties were each 50 percent negligent: the building owner for failing to remedy the slippery floor, and the plaintiff for wearing four-inch high heels to work.
In Florida, a plaintiff may collect damages from liable defendants even if the plaintiff is partially responsible for the accident. Based on the doctrine of comparative negligence, the plaintiff’s award is reduced by the amount of her fault. This means that a plaintiff who is 50 percent responsible for her injuries would be allowed to collect half of her damages.
Since comparative negligence is an affirmative defense to a negligence claim, the defendant has the burden to prove that the plaintiff was negligent. Comparative negligence is proven the same way as any other negligence claim. The defendant must show that the plaintiff owed a duty, breached it, was injured, and proximately caused the injury.
The Fifth District focused on the duty element of the defendant’s defense by addressing the question of whether a duty existed. Florida courts have held that to impose a duty based on the circumstances of the case, the defendant (in this case, the plaintiff) must have created a foreseeable zone of risk through her actions.
The Fifth District determined that the defendant failed to show that the plaintiff created a zone of risk by wearing high heels to work. The only evidence presented by the defendant was that the plaintiff told her physician that she was wearing high heels when she fell and that a co-worker did not fall because she was wearing different shoes. Thus, the Fifth District remanded the case to the district court with instructions to enter judgment for the plaintiff without the 50-percent reduction in damages.
Many premises defendants attempt to shift the blame to the plaintiff in slip-and-fall cases. An experienced premises liability attorney will be ready not only to prove the plaintiff’s case but also to defend against any counter-allegations of negligence.
If you were injured by a negligent property owner, you may have a claim under Florida premises liability law. Property owners who invite customers onto the grounds to conduct business are charged with a particularly high duty of care. The Southwest Florida premises liability attorneys at Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano have significant experience helping Floridians injured in Fort Myers, Naples, and throughout the region. For help with your slip-and-fall case, call (800) 238-7442.
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