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Trip or Slip and Fall on Miami Beach – Owners have a Duty to Maintain

Personal injury lawyers and attorney’s who handle slip and fall or trip and fall cases treat and call them “premises liabilty” cases. That just means that a person or company’s liabilty arises out of their ownership of land, property, or “premises”. It could be a renter, owner, lessor, or lessee. But the basic point is that someone is being held liable because they own or maintain a premise or property.

But to be held liable, one must first show that the person, company, or business that was in possession of the property had a duty. A lawyer will look into who exactly owned the property or leased (rented) it at the time the accident happened.

Slip and fall cases are different that trip and fall cases. That is because the Florida Legislature passed a law making it so that slip and fall cases on a transitory or moveable object like water, soap, liquid, paper, glass, sand, plastic, or any other item that is moveable is treated differently.

Florida Statute 768.0755 is the law that controls premises liability cases that occur in business establishments as a result of a “transitory object”. It states that “[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.” If you want to see the entire law, just click on this link: http://flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2011/768.0755

Now, slip and falls and trip and falls are different. The law is different on notice. The following is a case that describes one of the big differences.

On June 12, the 2nd District Court of appeals filed their decision in the case of Fitzherbert v. Inland and Guinsler, Appellees, 37 Fla. L. Weekly D1424a, 2nd District, Case No. 2D11-4003. That case arose out of trip on the side of a ramp in front of retail store. The Plaintiff fell in Pasco County.  But the same law would apply in Miami, Miami Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Kendall, Coral Gables, or any other Florida City. The plaintiffs contended that the ramp and adjoining road surface were not properly painted or repaired. The Plaintiffs also alleged that the defendant breached the duty to detect and warn of dangerous conditions and its duty to exercise reasonable care in maintaining, inspecting, and repairing of the premises.

The trial court entered final summary Judgment for the Defendant because, in its reasoning, the Defendant had no duty to warn because the conditions of the ramp were open and obvious.   The Plaintiff appealed. And the second district court of appeals reversed and the Plaintiff won the appeal. The Second District Court of Appeals, in an opinion written by Judge Crenshaw, the Court held and ruled that there was a “genuine issue of material fact” that remained regarding whether or not Defendant had discharged its duty to maintain premises in “reasonably safe condition”.

The Court noted that, even if the Defenant shows that, as a matter of law, a condition was open and obvious, the Defendant cannot get summary Judgment unless he, she, or it shows that the duty to maintain the premises was discharged and not breached.

Because there was an issue regarding that material fact, the 2nd DCA cited Volusia County v. Aberdeen at Ormond Beach, L.P., 760 So. 2d 126, 130 (Fla. 2000) and noted that “[t]he party moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of demonstrating the nonexistence of any genuine issue of material fact and must tender competent evidence to support the motion.” Because the Defendant couldn’t show that, the Plaintiff won the appeal and the trial court’s ruling was reversed.

If you fell down in Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, or any other Florida City at a business, market, supermarket, or other place of business, call and we will tell you for free if we think you have a case or not. As the case above says, in a trip and fall down case, even if the Defendant’s lawyer argues that a condition is open and obvious, they cannot get out of the case on summary Judgment unless they show that they discharged their duty to maintain the premises.

We are lawyers who do this work daily and would love to share our experience as attorneys who handle Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, and other Florida City’s slip and trip and fall negligence cases. Almost always, an expert is needed to testify as to what, if any, laws or ordinances were broken by not correcting a condition that caused a trip and fall. We use such experts and forward the costs. Call us at 305-285-1115 or email Jonah at jonahwolfson@wolfsonlawfirm.com.