In all Florida personal injury cases, the jury must decide whether to believe some or all of the version of events put forth by the plaintiff, or some or all of the version of events put forth by the defendant. Formally, they are tasked with determining any genuine issues of material fact. Case law places this task firmly in the hands of a jury. Judges, on the other hand, are responsible for determining matters of law, and they must allow the jury to hear all relevant evidence that is not precluded by law. In a recent decision, McNabb v. Taylor Elevator Corp. (2D15-4838), the district appellate court looked at whether or not an expert witness unveiled a genuine issue of material fact in his affidavit, and whether the trial court erred by ruling in favor of the defendants’ summary judgment, dismissing the case.
The injured party in this case filed suit after sustaining injuries from slipping on an oil leak near an elevator on the premises of a condominium complex. An elevator seal broke prior to the accident, leaking into the machine room and out into the hallway where the fall occurred. The elevator service technician testified that the leak was dripping every two seconds and that the oil was a quarter-inch deep. The injured man alleged that the elevator and the surrounding area were negligently maintained. The defendants in the case (the condominium association and the elevator servicing company) filed for summary judgment, arguing that the testimony of the inspectors ruled out negligent maintenance, since there was no leak at the time of the inspection. The injured man submitted the testimony of his own expert witness, a mechanical engineer, who opined that the seal had been leaking for between 4 1/2 and 18 days. The expert based his determination on the rate of the drip, the depth of oil observed, and the dimensions of the machine room.
The trial court granted summary judgment, discounting the affidavit of the mechanical engineering expert. The court felt that the expert did not base his analysis on facts and that he was not saying things in line with the pleadings. The injured person appealed, arguing that his expert witness actually created a genuine issue of material fact, leaving it up to the jury to determine whether or not the expert’s opinion was credibly made. The appellate court agreed with the injured man and ruled the expert’s affidavit did create a material issue of fact, so the trial judge improperly weighed the evidence in the defendants’ favor. The summary judgment was reversed, and the case was returned to the trial court, where the injured person is allowed to continue with his lawsuit.
The Florida slip and fall attorneys at Donaldson & Weston are experienced personal injury lawyers who can help you aggressively pursue the damages you deserve. If you’d like to discuss your premises liability claim with one of our lawyers, call today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.
More Blog Posts:
Florida District Court of Appeal Reviews Drunk Driver Motorcycle Accident Case, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, August 4, 2016
Wrongful Death Appeal Discusses Statutory Requirements for Expert Witnesses in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, July 13, 2016