South Florida Injury Attorney Blog
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The highest civil appellate court in the state of West Virginia recently made a ruling that will void an award of over $55,000 that was given to an injured plaintiff by the jury after a premises liability trial. The high court ruled that the plaintiff never made an adequate showing that the defendant’s alleged negligence was the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, and without such evidence the plaintiff could not receive any damages as a matter of law. Based on the recent opinion, the plaintiff will be unable to collect any compensation for the injuries he suffered when a fence he was leaning on broke, sending him falling down a hill and causing injuries.

Wooden FencePlaintiff Is Injured at a Park that Was Operated by the Defendant

The plaintiff in the case of Wheeling Park Commission v. Datolli was a man who was injured while he was visiting a West Virginia public park that was operated by the defendant. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff needed to rest while he was at the park, and he decided to lean against a fence atop a small hill because there were no benches in the area for him to have a seat. After briefly inspecting the split-rail fence and noticing no defects, the plaintiff leaned on the top rail of the fence, which became dislodged from the fence post and resulted in the plaintiff falling down the hill, seriously injuring his shoulder.

Plaintiff Files a Premises Liability Case Against the Park Commission

The plaintiff later filed a premises liability lawsuit against the park commission, seeking damages for his medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering related to the accident. At trial, the plaintiff called the operations manager of the park as a witness, who testified that the fence was over 20 years old and could be subject to decay, although the Park Commission could not show that they had repaired or maintained the fence in question. After the trial, the plaintiff was awarded damages for the medical expenses and lost wages that he incurred as a result of the accident, although his claim for pain and suffering damages was denied by the jury.

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Earlier this month, a woman who broke her ankle after slipping and falling on ice outside a Marriott hotel had her case reversed based on an error the trial judge made while instructing the jury. In the case, Alcala v. Marriott International, the court held that the jury’s general verdict finding the defendant negligent had to be reversed because two of the four theories of liability provided to the jury were based on improper instructions. As a result, the plaintiff will need to try the case all over again.

Snowy WalkwayAlcala v. Marriott International:  The Facts

Alcala was on a business trip staying at a Marriott hotel. During her stay, as she was exiting the hotel, she slipped on a sidewalk outside one of the hotel’s main exits. As a result of her fall, she sustained a broken ankle. She then filed a premises liability lawsuit against Marriott, claiming the company was negligent.

The plaintiff claimed that Marriott was negligent in several ways. First, its employees were not properly trained to handle icy walkways. Second, the company was negligent for failing to inspect the sidewalk. Third, the company was negligent for failing to safely maintain the sidewalk. Finally, the company was negligent for failing to use slip-resistant materials when constructing the sidewalk.

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Insurance companies like to put on a good face in their marketing, explaining that they cover their customers in times of need and help them get back to where they were before their accident. However, make no mistake, insurance companies are for-profit companies that can only survive by taking in more revenue than they pay out in claims. Thus, individual insurance adjusters are motivated to deny even the most meritorious claim, and people who are not denied are often offered low-ball settlement offers to make the claim go away.

School BusIt is important to keep in mind, however, that an accident victim is not stuck with what an insurance company offers them. And in cases in which an insurance company denies a claim outright, that is not necessarily the final word on the matter. Courts can, and often do, get involved between accident victims and insurance companies to make sure that the insurance policy is honored.

Insurance policies are contracts, by which the insurance company agrees to compensate the insured for certain expenses and injuries. In the case of motor vehicle insurance, the insurance company agrees to compensate the insured if they are involved in a qualifying accident. This coverage extends not only to the insured but also to anyone injured by the insured. A recent case out of Delaware is a good example of how an insurance company may try to escape paying out a valid claim.

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Florida courts are accustomed to dealing with large amounts of cases, and while many of these cases present actual injured parties deserving of compensation, courts are always on the look-out for frivolous cases. This is true across all aspects of the law, but perhaps nowhere more true than in the context of medical malpractice cases. In fact, the Florida legislature has created specific procedural requirements that apply only to medical malpractice cases in hopes of whittling down the number of cases each year.

StethescopeWhether right or wrong, the reality is that medical malpractice plaintiffs must be extremely cautious about how they proceed with their case. One procedural misstep could result in an otherwise meritorious case getting dismissed. In fact, that is exactly what happened to one family who filed a medical malpractice case against a hospital in Texas.

Christus Health Gulf Coast v. Carswell:  The Facts

The Carswell family lost their loved one while he was in the care of the defendant hospital back in 2004. In the wake of the tragedy, the family filed several wrongful death claims, alleging that facility’s medical negligence and seeking compensation as a result. However, about three years after the initial case was filed, the family added additional claims, alleging that the hospital staff fraudulently obtained consent for a private autopsy.

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A group of wrongful death plaintiffs received a favorable ruling in an opinion recently released by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in a DUI accident case. The court upheld a district court ruling allowing the plaintiffs’ lawsuit to proceed, rejecting the defendant’s arguments that the plaintiffs had submitted a non-compliant affidavit and that the case must be dismissed.

Shot GlassesPlaintiffs Sue Bar over Father’s Death in a Single-Car DUI Accident

The plaintiffs in the case of Bayless v. TTS Corp. are the children of a man who died in an accident after he had been drinking at a bar located inside a restaurant operated by the defendant. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit alleges that the bartender and staff at the restaurant continued to serve the victim alcoholic beverages after he was extremely intoxicated and before he would be driving home. According to the appellate opinion, the man was served at least 12 alcoholic drinks while at the bar, and the employees of the defendant continued to serve him after he was clearly intoxicated. The man then left the bar to drive home, but he lost control of his vehicle and crashed about two miles from his house. He died at the scene as a result of multiple traumatic injuries.

Business Owners’ Liability for Over-Serving Alcoholic Drinks

Many states, including Massachusetts and Florida, have laws on the books that make it illegal for a restaurant, bar, or retail store to sell alcoholic beverages to someone who is obviously intoxicated. Additionally, there are civil penalties and a legal cause of action that can be filed against a business if they serve alcohol to an intoxicated patron who proceeds to get in a crash and hurt themselves or someone else. These civil laws are designed to encourage business owners and employees not to over-serve customers and put members of the public at risk.

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With thousands of miles of beautiful coastline and hundreds of lakes and rivers, Florida is a popular destination for water lovers. However, with so many people on Florida beaches and in Florida’s lakes and rivers, there are bound to be accidents. Many of these accidents are the result of inexperienced operators or, worse yet, irresponsible operators who are either not paying attention or are intoxicated.

BoatersBoaters, like the operators of other motorized vehicles, are responsible for their actions. This means that a negligent or intoxicated operator may be held liable for any injuries that were caused by their reckless decisions. In order to prove a case against a negligent operator, an accident victim must prove that the defendant’s negligent actions caused the accident victim’s injuries. This is most often done through a traditional negligence lawsuit.

Negligence lawsuits have four main elements:  duty, breach, causation, and damages. In most cases, the element of duty is easy to establish because boaters all have a duty to others with whom they share the water to operate their vessels in a safe manner. In most cases, the bulk of litigation in boating accident cases takes place regarding the elements of breach and causation.

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Earlier last month, four of the five families who lost loved ones in a truck accident entered into and accepted settlement negotiations with the employer of the truck driver who was determined to be at fault in the accident. According to a local news source covering the tragic accident and subsequent settlement, three of the four settlement amounts are still confidential. However, it was released that one family was provided $14 million for the loss of their loved one.

Semi TrucksSettlement Negotiations in Truck Accident Cases

It is commonly asked why so many personal injury cases end up as settlements. While there are several reasons for this, and many are based on the personal preferences of the specific parties involved, certainty is one of the main motivating factors. Even a seemingly rock-solid case can lose its strength if certain evidence is discovered or if an unfavorable pre-trial ruling is made. In these cases, it may behoove a plaintiff to accept a guaranteed sum of money rather than take the case to trial and potentially end up with nothing.

The Facts of the Case

Evidently, back in April of last year, five nursing students were traveling to work on Interstate 16. The students were split up into two cars, and they had come to a stop in a traffic jam that was caused by an unrelated accident. While the two vehicles were in stop-and-go traffic, a truck came up from behind traveling at a high rate of speed. The truck slammed into the rear of one of the vehicles carrying several students. That vehicle then crashed into the other vehicle carrying the remaining students.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Maine dismissed a premises liability case against a city government because the plaintiff failed to notify the government being sued within 180 days of his injury. In the case, Deschenes v. City of Sanford, the court determined that the plaintiff’s verbal notification that he was going to file the lawsuit was not sufficient to meet the requirements of the state’s Tort Claims Act.

stairs-1215277The Plaintiff Fell Outside City Hall

The plaintiff was visiting city hall to obtain a copy of his daughter’s birth certificate when he tripped on some raised tread and fell down the stairs. After falling down the stairs, he slid into a set of glass doors and was injured as a result. City employees at the scene provided the man with some basic medical care until the ambulance arrived and could take him to the hospital. Upon arrival, it was discovered that he had not suffered serious or life-threatening injuries, although he did have a few “abrasions.”

The plaintiff did nothing for the first 177 days following the accident. However, on the 178th day, he again went to city hall, this time to inform the government that he would be filing a lawsuit against them for failing to maintain safe premises. However, when he arrived, all the doors were closed. He was able to speak with one employee, and he informed that employee that he would be filing a personal injury lawsuit. A few weeks later, the city received formal notice that the plaintiff had filed a lawsuit.

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In a dramatic shift from prior decisions, the Supreme Court of Arkansas recently released its opinion regarding the admissibility of seat-belt use evidence in civil lawsuits. The court found that the code that restricts the admissibility of a person’s failure to wear a seat belt violates the Arkansas Constitution.

street-296220_960_720The case arose from a 2011 car accident. Evidently, the petitioner/plaintiff was a passenger of a car driven by the defendant, who fell asleep at the wheel and caused an accident. The passenger brought a suit against the defendant, alleging damages for the injuries she suffered. The passenger also claimed that the driver was acting within the scope and course of his employment when the accident occurred, and she added the employer as a defendant as well. Both defendants filed answers that included the fact that the passenger was not wearing a seat belt as an affirmative defense. The plaintiff argued that the evidence should not be included because it violated a state statute that prevented such evidence. In turn, the defendants challenged the constitutionality of the state statute that restricts the admissibility of seat belt use or non-use in civil actions. Ultimately, the statute was held unconstitutional.

Applicability of the “Seat Belt” Defense in Florida

In the above case, the defendants attempted to use the seat belt defense in order to lessen the amount of damages for which they were liable. This defense has often been incorporated into various comparative fault systems. A number of states do not address the seat belt defense. However, Florida is one of the 15 states that allow a seat belt non-use defense.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Utah issued an opinion in a case that presented an interesting issue regarding when a minor can be held individually liable for their own negligent actions. Ultimately, the court determined that no minor under the age of five can be held liable for their actions, regardless of the level of negligence or recklessness involved. The case, importantly, did not comment on the potential liability of the parents of the minor.

baby-1093759_960_720Neilsen v. Bell:  The Facts of the Case

The Bells had a four-year-old son. When they were away for the evening, they arranged for Neilsen to stay with their son as a babysitter. Unfortunately, while the Bells were away, their son threw a toy at Neilsen’s face, hitting her in the eye. Neilsen, having previously had surgery on her cornea, ended up losing the sight in that eye as a result of the toy striking her.

Neilsen filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Bells, as well as against the young boy in his individual capacity. The lawsuit against the Bells proceeded under the legal theory of negligent entrustment, arguing that they were negligent in leaving their son with Neilsen. However, that claim was dismissed by the trial court and was not appealed by the plaintiff.

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