Recently, while reading an article on Oregonlive.com, it occurred to me that Florida commercial property owners certainly do have an advantage this time of year. This is not the first time that I have considered the benefits of living in a warm, southern climate, but this article made it very obvious.
The story was actually about the courts denying a slip and fall claim, issued by a woman who fell in a commercial lot, wet and slippery with snow. However, there was a bigger message for me.
Allow me to pull a couple of quotes from the text:
This past July, a man who said he broke his wrist after he slipped on ice on a sidewalk in front of a Milwaukee Safeway on a 32-degree day in December 2012 filed a $50,000 suit against the store, saying the store was at fault for failing to remove the ice. That suit is still headed for trial in February.
A customer at a Linnton-area Shell gas station said he fractured his elbow in December 2013 and filed a $50,000 lawsuit last March against the business, claiming it had a duty to shovel snow or sprinkle salt or gravel over its lot so customers wouldn’t slip. That suit has since settled for an undisclosed amount.
“He made it into the store being very, very carefully,” said attorney Steven Smucker, who represented the injured man. “And on the way back (to his car), being very, very careful — even despite his best efforts — he slipped and broke his elbow.”
Even when the courts favor the defense, and award the injured party nothing, there is a great amount of time and money spent on efforts to present a case. These companies, located in the northern regions of the country, must contend with something that our St. Petersburg businesses do not have to – snow and ice.
Though Florida law does stipulate that property owners have an obligation to make their premises safe for the public, the courts have also made it more difficult for injury victims to win slip and fall cases.
More than four years ago now, Florida Statute § 768.0755 was passed, which placed greater burden of proof on the plaintiff. It had long been the case that the premises owner had the duty to maintain the property to reasonably safe standards and to warn the public when there were known hazards that were concealed or not easily discovered.
With the new statute, the state ensured that the plaintiff carried the full burden of proof, ruling that in order for the defendant to be found negligent, there must be evidence that the dangerous condition had existed for a long enough period of time that the establishment’s owner or staff should have been aware of it, or that it was a frequently recurring issue and, therefore, should have been foreseeable.
So, while Saint Petersburg companies must still maintain their properties, the more moderate weather patterns mean fewer incidents of slip and fall accidents, and the burden of proof placed on the plaintiffs mean that it is less likely that owners will pay out damages to people injured on their property(ies).
That being said, as a victim, you do have the right to file a lawsuit if you feel that a premises owner or his staff was negligent and that negligence led to your injuries. It is highly advised, however, that you seek a personal injury attorney to review your case and represent you in court, due to the complexities of filing lawsuits, as well as the aforementioned Florida statute.