Dancing turned out to be dangerous for John Feris, Jr. when he slipped and fell on a wet floor at the ritzy Fort Walton Beach Country Club and was seriously injured. While lying on the floor, Mr. Feris noted a pool of liquid smelling of alcohol as well as a number of other people holding drinks while dancing.
The club’s operation policy prohibited people from taking their drinks onto the floor, but apparently the staff did not enforce that rule, nor did they post any signs that would have alerted anyone to the rule.
Mr. Feris sued the country club for its failure to maintain and inspect the dance floor, for failing to warn him of the dangers of a wet dance floor, and for negligently operating their business by not enforcing their own rules.
FLORIDA SLIP AND FALL LAW
The country club defended his personal injury lawsuit by citing Florida’s 2010 slip and fall law, Section 768.0755 of the Florida Statutes, claiming that it did not have “actual notice” of the wet floor. It should be noted the 2010 edition of the law had modified the 2009 version by requiring that business owners have “actual notice” of a foreign substance, in this case spilled drinks, versus “constructive notice,” which means that the employees should have known about the condition even if they did not actually know about it.
The trial court agreed with the country club’s motion to dismiss and kicked Mr. Feris’s claim out of court on the basis of his inability to prove that the club’s employees had actual knowledge of the floor’s being dangerously wet.
An appeal followed to Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal, who in reversing the dismissal ordered the case back to the trial judge and this time to a jury. The appellate court’s opinion found that there was enough circumstantial evidence that would allow a jury to infer that the country club had allowed or caused the dangerous condition to exist with such regularity that the club knew or reasonably should have known about alcohol on the dance floor.
In other words, since drinks were typically taken onto the dance floor, and because people were on the floor that night dancing with drinks in their hands, the club would have discovered the presence of drinks on the floor if it had exercised reasonable care. READ THE FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL’S OPINION HERE.
LEGAL VICTORY FOR PEOPLE INJURED AT A BUSINESS
This case is a huge victory for those injured in slip and falls in Florida for a number of reasons. I hate to see cases taken away from juries by trial judges when there is a legitimate theory of liability and a factual dispute as to who is at fault. That is, in my opinion, why we have juries. Let the jury decide if the club, store, cruise ship, or whatever is responsible for the fall and injury or . . . not. But I despise a judge’s taking that right away from an injured person.
Secondly, this case sends a strong message to business owners to put people’s safety over profits. I don’t know if the club was charging for drinks or whether or not they had enough employees on duty to enforce the no-drink policy on the dance floor or to keep the floor clean. But I have seen enough cases over the last 23 years of practicing personal injury law to guess that some financial decision was made to keep the drinks flowing, even if it meant that a little or lot of alcohol might get spilled along the way.
FREE CONSULTATION FOR SLIP AND FALL CLAIMS
I have investigated thousands of slip and fall accident cases across the State of Florida–at Orlando’s theme parks like Disney and Universal, hotels, shopping malls, Walmart, Costco, and Target, Publix, Winn Dixie, and on cruise ships such as Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean.
If you have been hurt at a McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, or Dunkin Donuts store, call me toll free today at 1-866-597-4529 or email for a free initial consultation regarding your potential claim. Not every fall is a viable personal injury case, but let me help you understand the law and your legal rights to recover damages for pain and suffering, lost time from work, and medical expense.