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A Miami woman’s slip and fall personal injury case against a local hospital was dismissed by a Miami-Dade County Circuit Court judge.  The case was handled by another Miami slip and fall law firm.  According to the court’s file, Carmen Encarnacion claimed that she slipped and fell at Palmetto General Hospital at approximately 4:45 p.m. on March 11, 2011.  She was at the emergency room attempting to help her elderly mother, who had suffered a stroke. An ER nurse told Ms. Encarnacion that her mother had to be admitted to the hospital but that she would have to wait as there was no bed available.

Five hours later Ms. Encarnacion says she saw an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) paramedic with a spray bottle in the hallway, cleaning a dirty stretcher. She then attempted to walk around the area where the paramedic was cleaning, but slipped and fell due to what she “guessed,” was liquid on the floor.

Two years later she sued the Hospital and Hospital Housekeeping Systems claiming she fell on a spray being administered by the paramedic.  Then about six months into the lawsuit s. Encarnacion started to get confused as to who the many may have been but was certain  there were no wet floor sign, mop bucket, dripping mops, or food service items in the hallway; and the substance on the floor was “oily”, dirty”, and “dark.” About a month later, in her sworn deposition, Ms. Encarnacion asserted that the substance smelled like a cleaning product similar to “Pine Sol,” but was unable to testify how long the substance had been on the floor.

Motion For Summary Judgement

Both the Hospital and Hospital Housekeeping Systems moved for summary judgment, which is a legal procedure used by defendants to dismiss cases before they can reach a jury on the grounds there is a complete lack of evidence that the defendant(s) knew of any dangerous condition that may have caused the accident. There was, however, no records of how and when the hospital and cleaning services actually maintained the floors.

Notwithstanding Ms. Encarnacion’s testimony, the trial court dismissed her entire case. Summary judgment is only appropriate when the pleadings, discovery, and affidavits show there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact” and “that the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”((Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. v. Dolgencorp., Inc., 964 So. 2d 261, 263-264 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007).))  A disputed material fact exists when there is sufficient evidence that a reasonable jury can return a verdict for the plaintiff.(( Bishop v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 96 So. 3d 464, 467 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012).))

To win a slip and fall or premise liability cases in Florida the plaintiff or injured person must prove four elements((Wilson-Greene v. City of Miami, No. 3D14-3094, slip op. at 4 (Fla. 3d DCA Jan. 25, 2017) (citing Bartsch v. Costello, 170 So. 3d 83, 86 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015)))):

(1) a duty by defendant to conform to a certain standard of conduct;

(2) a breach by defendant of that duty;

(3) a causal connection between the breach and injury to the plaintiff; and

(4) loss or damage to plaintiff.”

Since Ms. Encarnacion was a “business invitee” on the hospital’s premises–the hospital owed her a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain their premises in a safe condition. However, where a business invitee slips and falls on a “transitory substance” like the liquid spray she claimed caused her to fall- business establishments like the hospital have additional legal protection against injury lawsuits and claims found in §768.0755 of the Florida Statutes (2013).  This statute known as the Premise liability for foreign substance in a business establishment law states that when a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment actually knew of or should have known (aka constructive knowledge) of the dangerous condition and prove that it should have taken action to fix it.

The only way to prove that the hospital or maintenance company actually had constructive knowledge of the spill would be to show that it has been there long enough that

“exercise of ordinary care”, the defendants should have known of the condition; or that it happens so often that it was foreseeable that it was there.

Although it was undisputed that the person using the spray was an EMS paramedic, the trial court found that there was no proof that the spilled liquid had been on the floor long enough it should have been known to either defendant.  The woman appealed and Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal.((CARMEN ENCARNACION, Appellant, vs. LIFEMARK HOSPITALS OF FLORIDA, etc., et al., Appellees. 3rd District. Case No. 3D15-0834. L.T. Case No. 13-1003. ))

Sadly, her result is common- and applies to all kinds of slip, trip and falls both in land-based businesses like supermarkets, parking lots, shopping malls, schools, hospitals and at sea on cruise ships. Simply because someone falls and gets hurt- does not mean that they have a viable claim. The law puts the burden of proving the liability or legal responsibility of how long a dangerous condition existed squarely on the shoulders of the injured.  Who often, as in this case simply and innocently walk into a dangerous condition on a business owner’s property and get seriously hurt.

If you have been injured at a Florida business property– it is important to consult with a law firm that has experience in slip and fall cases, understands Florida’s business premise liability law and knows how to hold Florida property owners and managers accountable when they put their profits ahead of people.

Filing Your Claim With A Florida Slip and Fall Lawyer

Our Miami law firm has nearly 30 years of combined legal experience in using business owners, restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts, theme parks, gyms, shopping malls, schools and grocery stores like Publix, Winn-Dixie, Target, Whole Foods and others accountable for lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering.  Call us today and speak with a Miami personal injury lawyer- we are ready to help: toll-free 1-866-597-4529. Local 305-441-0440, or email at [email protected].