In Florida, the civil courts are sticklers for procedure. Whether it be following court imposed rules or sticking to deadlines set by statute, courts will rarely allow exceptions to procedural defaults. Along these lines are the strict notice requirements imposed by statute that require plaintiffs suing the state government (or a local government) provide adequate notice to the government agency within a certain amount of time. To simplify, these will be referred to as “notice requirements.”
Aitcheson v. Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
In the recent case, Aitcheson v. Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV), a Florida court of appeals had the opportunity to explain what kind of notice is sufficient when it comes to telling a government agency that they are being sued.
In the case, the plaintiff suffered injuries relating to a slip-and-fall injury at one of the Florida DMV locations. The plaintiff provided notice to the agency, however, the information she provided was incorrect. For instance, she listed her birthday as the date of the accident, rather than her real birthday. She also claimed that her injuries occurred as a result of a “automobile accident” rather than a slip-and-fall accident. The accident location and date of the accident were correct, however.
As mentioned above, Florida law requires that the plaintiff notify the State agency. However, the question here is whether this incorrect information was sufficient to provide notice to the state agency.
The Lower Court
At trial, the lower court dismissed the case against the FDHSMV because it determined that the notice requirement was not met. It held that the plaintiff’s incorrect information was not enough to adequately put the state agency on notice for what they were supposed to be defending against.
The Court of Appeals Reverses
The Fourth District Court of Appeals reverse the lower court, holding that he notice was sufficient. Specifically, the court of appeals noted that “the purpose of the notice requirement is to provide the State and its agencies sufficient notice of claims filed against them and time to investigate and respond to those claims.”
The court continued, “although the notices provided to the FDHSMV … state that the injury was suffered in an automobile accident, rather than a slip and fall, we find that the notices nevertheless provided sufficient information for the agencies to investigate the claim.” This was all that was important to the court, that the state agency have the proper accident location and date. As long as the state agency is provided with this information, the agency will have enough information to begin investigating the claim, which is at the heart of the notice requirement.
Are You Involved in a Florida Personal Injury Case?
If you are considering bringing a Florida personal injury case, make sure that you are well represented throughout the entire process. Don’t risk getting your case dismissed because of some sloppy lawyering. It is clear, that in the example above, the lawyer who filed the complaint and served the notice was using a cut-and-copy form and the required changes were not made before serving the defendants. This almost cost the plaintiff her case. To speak to a skilled and dedicated Florida personal injury attorney today click here, or call 352-387-8700.
More Blog Posts:
Discoverability of Medical Records in Florida Personal Injury Actions, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 17, 2014.
Florida Supreme Court Case Further Defines Reach of Arbitration Agreements, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 10, 2014.