Slip and Fall cases are very common and unfortunately people injure themselves every day in commercial establishments in South Florida. The lawyers at the Fort Lauderdale Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis, LLC,have experience handling slip and fall cases, as well as other personal injury cases. These types of cases are called tort cases and have been around for centuries. Slip and fall cases allow the injured to recover medical bills and expenses, money for pain and suffering, as well as lost wages.
The laws governing Slip and Fall cases in Florida have changed over the years. Since July 1, 2010, a new standard in determining the outcome of a slip and fall lawsuits was enacted. The new laws shift the burden of proof from the defendant to the plaintiff. This means the Plaintiff will have to prove that the defendant knew or had constructive knowledge that the substance causing a slip and fall was on the floor.
Slip and Fall laws are defined by Florida Statute 768.0755 as follows:
Premises liability for transitory foreign substances in a business establishment.–
(1) If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it. Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that:
(a) The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition; or
(b) The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
(2) This section does not affect any common-law duty of care owed by a person or entity in possession or control of a business premises.
Under the old law, it was not necessary for the property owner to be aware of the substance causing a slip and fall in order to be liable to the Plaintiff. The old law is rooted in the 2001 case of Owens v. Publix Supermarkets. In this case, the Plaintiff, Evelyn Owens was an employee of Publix Supermarkets. A few minutes after her shift ended, she went shopping in the store and slipped on a discolored piece of banana. Initially, Publix won the case on a directed verdict. Then on appeal the decision was reversed and later after a rehearing the trial court’s decision was affirmed.
The case eventually ended up in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court. In this case, the standard for a slip and fall accident was established by the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court decided that if a plaintiff slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a defendant’s business premises, once the plaintiff establishes that he or she fell as a result of that transitory foreign substance, the burden shifts to the defendant to produce evidence that it exercised reasonable care under the circumstances. Therefore in Owens v. Publix, as long as the substance was on the floor and the plaintiff was injured, it constituted an unsafe condition. The presence of unsafe conditions meant that the property owner had a responsibility to make it safe.
This was the prevailing case that was the standard for almost 10 years. Then in 2010, Former Governor Charlie Christ enacted a new law, Florida Statute 768.075 governing premise liability cases. This law supersedes the Owens v. Publix case. Now, business owners still must maintain safe conditions, but it is up to the plaintiff to prove that the owner knew about an unsafe condition.
Many people do not agree with this new law. They believe that this law tends to be very difficult to prove what the owner did know or did not know. This makes it much more difficult for an individual to prove their claim and therefore many individuals will not be compensated for their pain and injuries. The unfortunate thing is that many slip and fall cases result in injuries that sometimes lead to pain and suffering for the rest of the injured person’s life. Spinal injuries and head injuries are very common and also very serious. In addition to spinal and head injuries, claims often include broken legs, broken hips and broken arms.
In a case against KFC, Tyrin Cherry, a 14 year old boy slipped on a piece of chicken in a KFC in Tampa, Florida. This case occurred in April of 2009. In this particular case the Plaintiff was awarded $20,000. Under the new law, it may have been more difficult for Cherry to have proven his case and now many lawsuits against businesses like KFC, will not prevail.
In the above referenced Tampa Bay Times article, Samantha Hunter Padgett, deputy general counsel for the Florida Retail Federation, states that “The law reintroduces fairness and creates a level playing field for businesses and customers.” Not everyone agrees with this statement. When someone is injured, they are not always thinking to gather evidence to help their case. They are usually thinking about their injury and the pain that they are experiencing.
If you have been hurt or injured in a slip and fall accident or any other type of personal injury case, such as a car accident, please email or call one of the lawyers at the Fort Lauderdale Injury and Accident Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC. at (954) 764-6099 or (954) 728-8885. We provide free consultations and can meet you at our office in downtown Fort Lauderdale or at your residence or any other location convenient to you. We handle most injury and slip and fall cases on a contingency basis, meaning you do not pay us at all unless there is a financial recovery in your case.