In Whyte v. United States Postal Service, the federal court for the Southern District of Florida explains the basic elements of proof that a plaintiff must establish in order to win a Florida negligence lawsuit.
Plaintiff Doreen Whyte was injured while walking with her husband in their neighborhood in Sunrise. As the Whytes were crossing a street close to a neighbor’s house, Ms. Whyte stepped on a white plastic band – which was lying on the sidewalk – and fell. She fractured both wrists; the injuries required surgery and physical therapy, incurring more than $60,000 in medical bills.
The Whytes sued the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), alleging that a postal service employee dropped the band on the street, causing the fall. Their negligence claim was brought pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), under which the federal government can be held liable for personal injury. The FTCA operates based on the state law in which the injury occurred.
Under Florida law, the court explained, a plaintiff suing for negligence must establish four elements:
(1) a legal duty on the defendant to protect the plaintiff from particular injuries; (2) the defendant’s breach of that duty; (3) the plaintiff’s injury being actually and proximately caused by the breach; and (4) the plaintiff suffering actual harm from the injury.
Assuming that USPS owed a duty to Plaintiffs not to discard the plastic bands on the street, the Whytes nevertheless failed to show that Ms. Whyte’s injury was caused by the breach of this duty. Specifically, the Whytes did not establish that a USPS employee discarded the plastic band on which she tripped. “Whyte has presented no specific evidence showing that a USPS carrier was the source of the band that tripped her,” the court ruled.
Although Ms. Whyte and her husband each testified that they often see the bands discarded in their neighborhood, neither indicated that they ever saw a USPS employee discard them. While, their neighbor testified that he had observed USPS mail carriers drop the bands on his yard a few times a week over the course of a year, he could not remember the year that it happened. Nor did the Whytes offer evidence showing that USPS is the only entity that uses the bands.
“Absent some reliable evidence linking USPS to the plastic band that caused Whyte’s fall…, the court cannot find by a preponderance of the evidence that a USPS carrier discarded that band.” As a result, the court entered judgment in favor of USPS.
When you are injured, you need a responsible personal injury attorney to help guide you through a potential negligence cause of action and all of the legal remedies available to you. The South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine provide free consultations and case evaluations for people injured in accidents throughout the area, including in Pompano Beach, Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale. Anidjar & Levine works on a contingency fee basis, which means they do not charge you any legal fees unless you win. If you have suffered injury because of another person’s negligence, call for a free consultation today.
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