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Summary Judgment to College Affirmed in Florida Woman’s Premises Liability Lawsuit Following Fall in Elevator – McCarthy v. Broward College


Florida premises liability law requires that the owners and managers of businesses maintain their establishments in a reasonably safe condition. If this does not happen, a person who is injured on the property may bring a lawsuit seeking financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.

When someone brings suit to recover damages for injuries sustained in an accident arising from allegedly unsafe conditions on business property, some in the legal community refer to it as a “slip and fall” case. In Florida, there are several statutory requirements that must be met in order for such a case to be successful. The District Court of Appeal for the Fourth District of Florida recently ruled that a particular woman’s case failed under statutory law.

Suit Filed After Fall in Elevator

In the case of McCarthy v. Broward College, the plaintiff was a woman who allegedly slipped and fell on an “unidentified liquid” in an elevator on a college campus in 2011. She brought suit against the college (and a cleaning service, although this part of her claim was not discussed in the appeal). The college sought summary judgment, arguing that the woman did not prove actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition as required by Flo. Stat. § 768.0755.

Case Dismissed by Trial Court

The Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, granted summary judgment in the college’s favor, holding that the college was a “business establishment” under the statute and that the woman had failed to meet her burden of showing that the college had notice of the conditions that purportedly led to the woman’s fall in the elevator.

On Appeal to the Fourth District Court of Appeals

The woman appealed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment, arguing the trial court had erred in applying Fla. Stat. § 768.0755 to the college because it was a state-owned institute of higher learning. She also argued that the college had violated its common law duty of care and that there were genuine issues of material fact remaining in the case. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the college.

The appellate court found that, as an establishment where services were rendered for a fee, the college was a business establishment. Under the statute, a person injured in a business establishment must show that the establishment had either actual of constructive notice of the dangerous condition that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s accident. Since the woman was unable to identify the liquid in the elevator, determine how long it had been there, or establish that the college had either actual or constructive notice of its presence, the college was entitled to summary judgment.

In closing, the court stated that there were insufficient facts, “absent an impermissible stacking of inferences,” to find that the college was in any way liable for the woman’s fall and resulting damages.

Schedule an Appointment to Discuss Your Premises Liability Case with a Fort Lauderdale Accident Lawyer

Cases involving slip and falls are complicated and sometimes difficult to prove, especially if you wait weeks or months to hire an attorney. To speak with an experienced premises liability attorney about the facts of your case, call the South Florida law firm of Cohn & Smith at 954-431-8100. We represent injured people throughout South Florida, including in Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, and Weston.

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