Articles Posted in Premise Liability/Negligent Security

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A grieving Florida widower is suing the property management company as well as the security company for the gated community where he and his wife lived, claiming these entities were negligent in providing security to their community. The case was filed after the brutal stabbing death of plaintiff’s wife in a Davie home invasion robbery.window

According to The Sun Sentinel, a 22-year-old man is accused of breaking into the couple’s home in September 2014, tying up and assaulting the 59-year-old victim, stabbing her to death and then leaving her body in the bathtub, where her adult son later discovered her. The accused is awaiting trial and faces the death penalty if convicted. He made headlines over the summer after he escaped from a Broward County courtroom and was on the run for six days. A number of others were later arrested in connection with assisting his escape.

While it may seem odd that anyone other than decedent’s killer could be held responsible for her death, a claim of negligent security asserts that a defendant had a duty to protect her and failed. Continue reading →

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Lack of security at a nightclub bathroom led to a brutal sexual assault, leading jurors to award a $5.4 million verdict against the nightclub. Now, that verdict has been affirmed by a California appellate court, illustrating the way in which a business can be held responsible for failure to protect patrons against third-party violent crimes. womanindark

In this case, Janice H. v. 696 North Robertson, the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District, Division Three, Hollywood producer plaintiff, 37, had consumed several drinks at other nightclubs before entering this one to meet some friends, grab a drink of water and use the restroom.

However, when plaintiff entered the unisex bathroom, a man unknown to her – later identified as a staffer at the club – followed behind her and proceeded to sexually assault her.  Continue reading →

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In personal injury cases, it’s essential to prove defendant owed a duty to plaintiff, that duty was breached and the breach caused the injury. moonlight

What many plaintiffs don’t realize is that they too owe a duty of care – to themselves. They have to take reasonable measures to protect themselves from known or knowable hazards, or else risk forfeiting the right to recover damages for it.

Thus, a key defense in these cases is the “assumption of risk.” The assumption of risk doctrine holds plaintiff knew of a dangerous condition and voluntarily exposed himself or herself to it.

This was the defense used in Griffin v. Haunted Hotel, Inc., before the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One. Continue reading →

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Liability waivers are not generally favored by Florida courts because they relieve one party of the obligation to use due care, and further shift the risk of injury to the party likely least equipped to take necessary precautions to avoid injury. For this reason, they are usually strictly construed against the party seeking to be relieved of that liability.vendorballoon

That said, releases of liability will be honored by the courts if it can be shown there was specific language that makes it clear the injured person fully appreciated the implications of that release.

In most of these cases, liability waivers are signed prior to a certain activity. For example, if you’ve ever ridden a rented jet ski, you probably had to sign a liability waiver. Similar releases are usually required for common Florida tourist activities like parasailing, boating or kayaking. However, most liability waivers don’t generally cover activity that occurs prior to signing that release. But that’s what defendants in Peterson v. Flare Fittings, Inc. et al. tried to do. Continue reading →

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Property owners are responsible for maintaining the site in a way that ensures it is safe from unreasonable hazards for guests. When it comes to businesses and public buildings, that includes the parking lot area. pavementcrack

That means owners have a duty to fill cracks and holes in the walking surface. That means making sure any variations in walking surface height should either be gradual or there should be a warning to pedestrians about the potential hazard. It also means making sure there is adequate lighting, adequate security and regular inspections for areas or aspects that might pose a fall risk, such as oil, cracked wheel stops or other debris.

Failure to do this can result in litigation if someone is injured as a result, and the danger wasn’t obvious to the person who was hurt. Continue reading →

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A woman allegedly slipped, fell and was seriously injured while shopping at the Sawgrass Mills Mall in South Florida. To recover damages for her injuries, she filed a lawsuit against mall services and ownership.

During the discovery phase of litigation, plaintiff sought certain documents from defendants pertaining to similar prior instances at that location. While trial court granted the request, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed in Millard Mall Services, Inc. v. Bolda, agreeing with defendants that the information was protected under the work product privilege.

Specifically, plaintiff sought production of:
–All records, incident reports or other written memorandum regarding other substantially similar acts and/or occurrences on defendant’s premises regarding slip-and-fall accidents over the three years prior;
–All documents regarding maintenance and cleaning the site during the month in which the incident occurred;
–All documents pertaining to the maintenance and cleaning of the site by an outside person/company/organization during that year.
Continue reading →

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In any personal injury lawsuit, there are some basic legal and factual requirements that must be met in order for the claim to succeed.

These requirements include establishment of:
–A duty owed by defendant to plaintiff;
–A breach of that duty;
–Proof that breach proximately caused plaintiff’s injuries;
–Compensable damages.

If any one of these elements goes wanting, the entire case will fail.
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Property owners are responsible for curing or warning of dangerous conditions of which they know or should know and that may not be easily discoverable by guests.

That’s the general basis for premises liability claims in Florida. In some cases, though, property owners can be held responsible for third-party acts when those acts were precipitated by some dangerous condition on site. Some examples include negligent security and attractive nuisance. The latter primarily involves children on the property, and the principle holds that children are going to be drawn to certain dangers on site. Because children lack the ability to fully process the consequences of their actions, property owners have a duty to protect children in cases of foreseeable danger.

F.S. 823.08 details some obvious attractive nuisances, which can include:
-Deep-freeze lockers;
-Clothes washers;
-Clothes dyers;
-Similar airtight units from which the doors have not been removed.
Continue reading →

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Property owners are required to keep the site reasonably free of foreseeable harm to guests and patrons under Florida law. Generally speaking, property owners aren’t required to insure against harm caused by third parties except in certain circumstances.

Under Florida premises liability law, a property owner can be liable for third-party attacks when:
–There is a special relationship for which owner assumes a duty to protect.
–There is an element of foreseeability to the alleged crime (i.e., there have been similar crimes committed on site or nearby in the past).
–Precautions taken to protect or warn the guest of danger were inadequate.

There have been numerous examples of Floridians who were injured as a result of a third-party attack who successfully sue the site owner or manager for damages based on this aspect of premises liability law. However, these cases are often complex in nature and require the help of an experienced litigator. While a criminal prosecution may result in a judgment for restitution, in addition to other criminal sanctions, that’s not standard, nor is it the primary purpose of the criminal justice system. That’s why third-party lawsuits are initiated.
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When important evidence in a civil injury case has been destroyed, altered or simply lost, this is called “spoliation of evidence.” Because this kind of action can throw off an entire injury case, it might seem defendants in such actions would have incentive to conveniently “lose” key documents, video or other evidence.

In order to counter this, both federal and Florida courts have consistently held that sanctions are appropriate when spoliation of evidence occurs.

The kind of sanctions imposed by the court will vary depending on the egregiousness of the act, whether it was intentional and how important the lost evidence would have been to the other party. Some examples have included entering a default judgment on the issue of liability, imposition of evidentiary presumption, exclusion of expert witness testimony or dismissal of a claim or counterclaim.
Continue reading →