Florida Legal Topics

DeBary Legal News - Liability

The Law Office of Paul Bernardini

Negligence - Injuries Due To Mistaken Idenity

Action against bank by Plaintiff who suffered personal injuries at the hands of the police when bank mistakenly reported plaintiff to be a bank robber. A person cannot be held liable for simple negligence when contacting police in good faith to report suspected criminal activity. Bank of America Corp. v. Valladares, 39 Fla. L. Weekly D1390 (3rd DCA Opinion on July 11, 2014).

Release of Liability and Express Assumption of Risk

Florida Courts allow certain types of releases and express assumption of risk documents to be valid under certain circumstances, it is very important to be careful about what you sign. You could be giving away your rights. This even includes wrongful death cases. See Diodato v. Islamorada Asset Management, Inc., 39 FLW 913 (Third District, April 30, 2014).

Liability - Evidence

On March 20, 2014, the Supreme Court of Florida adopted a standard jury instruction in civil cases. The instruction states that subsequent injuries caused by medical treatment are the responsibility of the original defendant. 39 Fla.L.Weekly S146.

School Board Immunity

The Supreme Court of Florida has agreed to review a Second District case holding that the School District of Lee County could not be liable in a lawsuit on behalf of a high school athlete who collapsed on the field during a high school soccer game and suffered brain injury when he was not resuscitated until emergency personnel arrived and used a defibrillator, alleging that the School Board was negligent in failing to maintain proper first aid equipment. The Second District held the School Board could not be responsible. The Supreme Court of Florida has agreed to review this case. Nomones v. School District of Lee County, Supreme Court Case Number SC13-932, Order dated February 6, 2014.

Slip / Trip and Fall

No liability for tripping over tree roots in a landscaped area where the defendant provided concrete walkways.

In Wolf v. Sam’s East, a Fourth District case decided January 15, 2014 at 39 FLW D157. A summary judgment in favor of the defendant was granted and affirmed. The Fourth District held that there was no duty on the part of the owner to remove the above ground tree roots from a landscaping area where a concrete sidewalk was provided, even though others had tripped on the roots before the plaintiff tripped and was injured. Additionally, there were no signs directing persons to use the concrete walkways. 39 FLW D157.

Releases - Liability

Gillette v. All Pro Sports, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2573 (5th DCA, December 6, 2013) deals with signing a release before the actual injury occurs.   Many people believe that these releases are not valid.  They are 100 percent wrong.  If the release is properly drafted, it bars many claims.  However, clauses that purport to deny an injured party the right to recover damages from another who negligently causes the injuries must contain wording that is so clear and understandable that an ordinary and knowledgeable person would know that he or she is contracting his or her rights away.

Slip / Trip and Fall

Many people trip over concrete wheel stops in parking lots. These cases are extremely difficult to win, no matter how serious the injury. A good example is Ramsey v. Home Depot USA, 38 Fla.L.Weekly D2245 (1st DCA October 25, 2013), where the First District held that the owner had no duty to warn the customer of the wheel stop and that the owner was not responsible for the injury when the customer tripped over the wheel stop.

Insurance - Uninsured Motorist Coverage

On November 22, 2013. The Second District Court of Appeals detailed that an injured insured may bring a direct action against his or her own uninsured motorist carrier without having first resolved the claim against the negligent party. Woodland v. Travelers Indem. Co., 699 So. 2d 1361, 1363 (Fla. 1997). However, injured insured must demonstrate that he or she is entitled to benefits on the basis that the negligent party is an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Allstate Ins. Co. v. Boyton, 486 So. 2d 552, 557 (Fla. 1986).

In this specific case, Ms. Neff acknowledges that the tortfeasor has $50,000 in liability coverage and that her damages are less than that amount. Because of this, Ms. Neff did not prove her damages exceeded the underinsured driver's policy limits of $50,000. Therefore she must resolve her claim with the negligent party before she can make a claim for her underinsured motorist coverage.

The Court's ruling is consistent with past rulings holding that uninsured motorist coverage is to compensate the injured insured over and above the negligent party's liability coverage. See State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Moher, 734 So. 2d 1088, 1088  (Fla. 2d DCA 1999).

The above information is intended for general purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

Personal Injury - Defective Chair

The Supreme Court of Florida held that a law office could be held liable for the failure to warn a client of a defective chair in a lawyer’s office.

There was conflicting evidence as to whether or not the defective chair caused the plaintiff’s injury. The Court ruled that it was improper for the District Court to re-way expert testimony and find that the trial court should have entered a directed verdict in favor of the law office. The Court held that it was a jury question as to whether or not the law office was responsible for the client’s injury due to the defective chair. Friedrich v. Fetterman and Associates, 38 FLW at 768 (Supreme Court of Florida October 24, 2013).

Liability Insurance - Automobile

A leased golf cart that has been modified to exceed a speed of 20 miles per hour may sometimes fall within the statutory definition of a low speed vehicle and as such, can be insured pursuant to the Florida Financial Responsibility Law. Angelotta v. Security National Insurance, Fifth District Court of Appeal, July 5, 2013, 38 FLW D1477.

Insurance & municipal liability

An interesting case concerning the non-joinder of insurance companies and the limitations of municipal liability is State National Insurance Company v. Robert, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D2257. This case dealt with a motor vehicle accident against the City of Hollywood. Florida law set forth in Florida Statute 768.285(5), Florida Statutes (2006), provides that cities and other government entities immunity is waived up to $200,000.00 absent a special claims bill from the Florida legislature. This case deals with the interplay of that immunity and the law on the joinder of the city's insurance company pursuant to Florida Statute 627.4136(1)(4) (2006). Generally, it is very important to know this. No matter what you see on television or hear on the radio, a city, county, hospital or any governmental entity cannot be liable for more than $200,000.00 to any person absent a special law passed by the Florida legislature.