In any Florida personal injury case, each claim contains several factual elements that the person suing must prove in order to recover damages. In Kenz v. Miami-Dade County, the Third District Court of Appeals explains one important element of a negligence claim against a business owner for an accident on the owner’s property: that the owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition that caused the accident.
The plaintiff was injured in a slip and fall accident at Miami International Airport in May 2008. She sued Miami-Dade County for negligence, alleging that she sustained permanent injury as a result of the fall.
Florida law provided at the time she filed suit that a person injured in an accident caused by a “transitory foreign substance in a business establishment” need not prove that the business knew or should have known of the foreign substance when the accident occurred. The law was amended in July 2010, however, requiring a person suing for a slip and fall accident to show that the business knew or should have known about the dangerous condition and failed to take steps to remedy it.
Agreeing with the County, a trial court ruled that the new law should be applied retroactively to the plaintiff’s suit. Although it meant a higher bar for the plaintiff to cross in order to succeed in her claim, the trial court said application of the new law was appropriate because the statute at issue was procedural, rather than substantive. The trial court later granted summary judgment to the County, finding that the plaintiff was unable to show that it had actual or constructive knowledge of the slippery floor.
The Third District agreed on appeal. The court explained that the question came down to whether the new law was substantive or procedural. A procedural law may be applied retroactively, while a substantive change may not. “[T]his Court has stated that substantive law prescribes duties and rights, whereas procedural law concerns the means and methods to enforce those duties and rights,” the court explained, quoting its 2010 decision in Weingrad v. Miles.
In this case, the court said that the law did not create any new element of proof in order for the plaintiff to establish negligence. To prove negligence, an injured person must show: that the party sued owed a duty of care requiring it to conform to a standard of conduct; that it breached the duty of care; and that the breach resulted in injury. Businesses are generally required as a duty of care to keep their premises in reasonable safe condition and to warn others of any dangers of which they know or should know.
Here, the statute simply put on the books the negligence standard already in effect, according to the court. “[B]y requiring that the plaintiff prove actual or constructive knowledge, the statute codifies a means and method by which a plaintiff shows that the defendant-business establishment has breached its duty of care.”
As a result, the court affirmed the trial court’s decision.
If you were recently injured in a slip and fall or other accident and are interested in pursuing a claim against the property owner of the premises where you were injured, call the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine today. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we represent clients throughout the region, including in Boca Raton, Hialeah and Coral Springs. Call us at 800-747-3733 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Related blog posts: