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Slip-and-Fall Verdict Reversed Based on Improper Jury Instruction

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.

At trial, several witnesses and experts testified, including an employee on duty at the time of the accident. The employee testified that she was instructed on how to clear the sidewalk in the event of a snow storm, but she was never told about how to properly use the deicing agent to prevent ice from forming.

Experts also testified for both sides. However, the experts’ testimony was in conflict. The plaintiff’s expert claimed that the applicable standard of care is to maintain a safe walkway even in the event of a snow or ice storm. The defendant’s expert explained that the standard of care was only in regard to what was used to construct the walkway, and there was no standard of care regarding the condition of the sidewalk after a storm.

The judge instructed the jury on all four of the plaintiff’s theories of negligence, and the jury returned a general verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $1.2 million. The defendant appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence presented for two of the theories of negligence:  the failure-to-train claim and the claim asserting the defendant failed to use slip-resistant materials.

The court agreed with the defendant, and since the jury failed to specify on which of the theories of negligence it based its verdict, a new trial was required.

Have You Been the Victim of a Slip-and-Fall Injury?

If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of a slip-and-fall accident in Florida, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, it is important that you have a dedicated attorney who will present all available evidence in favor of your claim, not just to create a convincing case to the jury but also so that your case, if successful, withstands an appeal. Call the dedicated attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Cohn & Smith today at 954-431-8100 to set up a free consultation.

Related Blog Posts:

What May Constitute a Florida “Medical Malpractice” Case Can Be Surprising, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, June 3, 2016.

Florida Boating Accidents on the Rise, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, May 19, 2016.

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