In early November, a Miami jury awarded a man $1.2 million in a lawsuit over an extremely unfortunate accident at a batting cage. The Miami Herald reported that the young man was hit in the groin by a 60-mph pitch from a pitching machine. The accident happened after the machine was supposed to have been finished pitching; its light was off and it had finished its round of balls. But when the victim returned to the batting cage to pick up balls, at an employee's request, he was hit by an unexpected pitch that eventually sent him to the hospital.
This story is a good example of a potential Florida premises liability lawsuit that goes beyond a simple slippery floor or wobbly staircase. Premises liability laws require owners of businesses (and most other properties open to the public) to keep their properties free of hazards of all kinds, including malfunctioning equipment as well as tripping hazards and icy sidewalks. Other examples of hazards on a property might be abandoned refrigerators or cars; toxic substances or live electric wires exposed to the air; uncontrolled guard dogs; and swimming pools that aren't gated or locked to keep out toddlers.
In this case, the article suggests that the man's case focused on careless behavior by employees -- asking him to re-enter the batting cage before it was clear that it was safe to do so. In Florida and in many other states, business owners may be held legally responsible for the actions of their employees, as long as those actions were within the scope of their employment. "Within the scope of employment" generally means that the employee has to be doing job-related duties for the employer's benefit, within the hours and physical location normally authorized by the employer. For example, a delivery driver who runs a red light on the job is acting within the scope of his employment, even if his boss didn't tell him to run the light and would have told him not to.
Finally, it's worth noting that the victim in the batting cages lawsuit was awarded $160,000 in medical costs and $1 million in pain and suffering. Given the nature of the injury, I have no doubt that the victim was indeed in great pain, and may well have been deeply embarrassed as well. Such high pain and suffering damages are a bit unusual in an injury case -- but because it's hard for juries to put a value on physical pain and emotional suffering, there's no hard and fast rule. If you've been hurt on someone else's property and would like to know more about your own case and potential damages, Cohn, Smith & Cohn can help. Contact us today for a free consultation on your case.