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Florida Appellate Court Discusses When Evidence of Subsequent Remedial Measures Taken by the Defendant May Be Introduced

Earlier this month, the District Court of Appeal of Florida’s Second District issued a written opinion analyzing and applying one of the state’s more interesting rules of evidence. The case required the court to discuss Florida Statute 90.407, which deals with the introduction of evidence that a defendant took subsequent remedial measures to remedy a hazard alleged to have caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries.

Cracks in PavementWhat Is a Subsequent Remedial Measure?

Assume that an infant’s toy contains a piece that may be a choking hazard, and once the product is released to market, several infants choke on the toy, and their parents file lawsuits against the toy’s manufacturer. After the manufacturer hears of the potential hazard and the pending lawsuits, the manufacturer redesigns the toy, eliminating the piece that created the choking hazard. Should the parents involved in the pending lawsuit be able to present evidence of the manufacturer’s redesign to show that the manufacturer knew the original design was dangerous?

Florida Statute 90.407 governs these situations. The act of redesigning the toy was a subsequent remedial action taken by the toy manufacturer. As a general rule, evidence of subsequent remedial actions is not permitted to show that the party taking the action was negligent. This is to encourage parties to fix potential hazards without fear of conceding liability. However, there are exceptions when evidence of subsequent remedial actions may be admissible at trial. A recent case illustrates one such example.

The Facts of the Case

A plaintiff slipped and fell on a water valve cover that had become separated from the asphalt around it. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the water company, claiming that the water company had a duty to maintain the valve as well as the area immediately surrounding it. The water company argued that the area around the valve was not its responsibility, and the city was responsible for maintaining that area.

Three months after the lawsuit was filed, the water company fixed the asphalt. The plaintiff wanted to present this fact to the jury, arguing that it showed the water company exercised ownership over the valve. However, the trial court prevented the jury from considering the evidence, finding that it was a subsequent remedial measure taken by the water company.

The plaintiff appealed and successfully had the lower court’s decision reversed. The appellate court held that the evidence was not presented to show that the water company was negligent, and thus it was not within the prohibitions of Statute 90.407. The court held that the evidence was presented to show that the water company had exercised control over the area surrounding the water valve that it claimed was not its responsibility. As a result, the case was remanded back to the lower court so that the plaintiff’s case may proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of South Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida premises liability lawsuit. The knowledgeable and dedicated personal injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Cohn & Smith have extensive experience representing injured Floridians in all types of personal injury cases. Call 954-431-8100 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury lawyer today.

Related Blog Posts:

Florida Appellate Court Determines Expert’s Opinion Was Improperly Excluded from Court’s Analysis, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, April 10, 2017.

Court Permits Wrongful Death Plaintiff’s Case to Proceed after Applying the “Last Clear Chance Doctrine”, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, April 4, 2017.

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