In a case earlier this month, a Nebraska appellate court reversed a lower court’s ruling that dismissed a man’s lawsuit alleging that his son’s middle school was negligent in the maintenance of the school.
Back in 2009, the father of a middle-school student tripped and fell outside his daughter’s school after a varsity volleyball match. Evidently, as the man was leaving the school, he left out the side doors. Testimony revealed that there was some lighting in the vestibule between the double doors, but no lights outside.
As the man was leaving, he was prevented from walking down the ramp immediately in front of the doors because there was a large group of people standing in his way. He then continued down what he thought was a path to the parking lot. However, at some point, he tripped and fell and landed on his elbow. He required surgery to fix the broken bone in his arm.
When asked at trial, the man could not readily identify exactly how he fell, or what he tripped on. He explained that there was a concrete bench right in front of him when he fell, but that he didn’t think that he tripped over the bench because he didn’t have any injuries on his leg consistent with tripping over the 180-inch high bench. He surmised that he tripped over a slightly raised piece of concrete directly in front of the bench.
The Plaintiff’s Case Is Dismissed at Trial
After hearing the evidence, the trial judge dismissed the plaintiff’s case because he was unable to determine exactly how he tripped and fell. This, the court held, meant that the plaintiff was unable to prove the causation element of his negligence claims.
Personal injury plaintiffs in Florida must prove four elements in order to be successful at trial. Specifically, they must prove:
- The defendant owed them a duty of care;
- The defendant violated that duty;
- The defendant’s violation of the duty caused the plaintiff’s injuries; and
- The plaintiff suffered some sort of compensable damages.
Without satisfying each element, a personal injury plaintiff cannot succeed at trial.
The Appellate Court Reverses the Lower Court
On appeal, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the lower court and allowed the plaintiff to continue with his lawsuit. The court determined that merely because he didn’t know how he fell doesn’t mean that a jury couldn’t find that the school was in fact negligent. Since “reasonable minds could differ” about whether the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the negligence of the school, the lower court erred in dismissing the plaintiff’s case.
While this court applied Nebraska law, a Florida court applying Florida law would likely have come to the same decision on these facts.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to bring a premises liability claim in Florida. However, keep in mind that the defendant whose land you were on at the time of the accident will likely contest the charges. To ensure that you are well-represented throughout the process, contact one of the dedicated personal injury attorneys at the Dean Law Firm. The dedicated advocates at the Dean Law Firm have years of experience successfully litigating all types of personal injury cases, including slip-and-fall cases. Call 352-387-8700 today to set up a free initial consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Canadian Motorcyclist Killed in Accident in Florida, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 22, 2015.
Florida Police Patrol Car Gets into Accident with SUV, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 13, 2014.