Florida District Appellate Decision Allows Woman Injured by Slip and Fall to Pursue Negligence Action Against County

Across Florida, people suffer all types of injuries at the hands of others’ negligence. Civil law provides a way to help those injured become financially and physically whole again, while holding those responsible accountable for their actions. What needs to be filed can vary from case to case, so it is important to have experienced Florida personal injury counsel at your side. If the negligent party is a government entity, the defendant may be able to claim immunity from suit, formally known as “sovereign immunity.” The Second District Court of Appeals recently reviewed a slip and fall action, and it reversed the ruling in favor of the county, allowing the injured woman to continue her case in Nelson v. Hillsborough County, Florida (2D15-579).

caution-wet-floor-sign-1-1444538-640x480The trial court dismissed the injured woman’s personal injury complaint with prejudice when she filed suit after slipping and falling outside the county’s courthouse. The county filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice, arguing the injured woman failed to sufficiently allege compliance with the notice requirements found under the state law governing sovereign immunity. (See Florida Statutes Section 768.28(6)(a).) This statute provides a waiver of sovereign immunity in tort actions brought against the state or any of its agencies or subdivisions, but only after the claimant presents a claim in writing to the appropriate agency and the Department of Financial Services within three years after the claim accrues.

The notice provided by the injured party must also allege that they were in compliance with 768.28(6)(a). This then shifts the burden to the defendant to deny such compliance, which can then return the burden to the injured party to prove the allegations concerning the subject matter. The appellate court pointed out that this process did not instantly lead to a consideration of dismissal. In looking at the history of this case, the court noted that the injured woman’s complaint included a statement asserting that proper notice had been given, but the injured woman failed to attach any documentation to back up her assertion.

The trial court, focusing on the lack of proof of compliance, sustained the county’s motion to dismiss. The appellate court did not feel this was appropriate because the trial court is obligated to confine itself to the four corners of the complaint and accept the allegations in it as true. Previous Florida case law emphasizes that trial judges should only look at the legal sufficiency of the complaint and not determine factual issues. The appellate court reversed the lower court’s dismissal with prejudice and allowed the injured woman to proceed with her action.

The Florida premises liability attorneys at Donaldson & Weston have the experience you need to litigate your slip-and-fall case. Our firm has handled many personal injury actions, and we know how to push back against tactics defendants use to limit the damages paid out to injured people and their families. For a free, confidential consultation, call today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Appellate Court Reinstates Injured Automobile Passenger Award of Over $93,000, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, February 17, 2016

Florida’s First District Court of Appeal Allows Child’s Wrongful Death Suit to Continue, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, January 18, 2016