Probably the most "common" form of premises liability case is the "slip and fall" case. Generally, the duties of the landowner and the issues under consideration in these types of cases parallel those of all premises liability cases.
First, in order to establish a legal duty on the part of the landowner, it is essential to establish that the landowner maintained control over the premises. Otherwise, the appropriate responsible party is the lessee, or other individual who maintained such control. Secondly, once that duty is established, it then becomes essential to determine the status of the visitor: is the visitor a trespasser, licensee, undiscovered licensee, or, in the most common case, a business invitee? Most premises liability cases that involve an actionable case based upon a slip and fall involve individuals who are properly classified as a business invitee. In such cases, the landowner owes a duty of care to use ordinary care in keeping the premises in a "reasonably" safe condition and give timely notice of latent or concealed perils which are known to or should be known to the owner, but which are not known to the invitee.
Often, the critical consideration surrounding slips-and-falls settlements that does not contain the issue of "transitory" substances is the notice or knowledge of the landowner. This issue relates primarily to the consideration of the "foreseeability" of harm. Notice, in this regard, can be either "actual" or "constructive." In order for a claimant to establish constructive knowledge, however, a dangerous condition must have existed for a sufficient period of time to have been noticed and remedied. However, where there is no evidence of actual or constructive knowledge on the part of the landowner (that is, if the landowner actually knew or should have known of the harm), a claim against the landowner is not likely to exist, regardless of how egregious the harm may be.
In certain cases, however, a claim may be based upon a negligent "method of operation." Under these circumstances, actual or constructive knowledge of the harm may not be necessary. In these premises liability cases, the claimant only need prove that the method of operating was inherently dangerous, and the condition was created as a result of the negligent operation. Of course, it must also be established that this condition actually "caused" the damage. Thus, if evidence can be established that a specific negligent mode of operation, such that the premises owner could reasonably anticipate that dangerous conditions would arise as a result of its mode of operation, then whether the owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the specific foreign substance may not be an issue. The dispositive issue is whether the specific method of operation was negligent and whether the accident occurred as a result of that negligence.
Transitory Foreign Objects or Substances
When "transitory substances" are an issue, however, the Florida legislature, in 2002, passed a statute which specifically sets forth that in a civil action based upon injury predicated upon a transitory foreign substance, "actual or constructive notice of the transitory foreign object or substance is not a required element of proof to this claim." However, as set forth in the statute, section 768.0710, Florida Statutes , the legislature also provided that "evidence of notice or lack of notice offered by any party may be considered together with all of the evidence." Thus, in cases involving transitory foreign objects or substances, although proof of prior actual or constructive knowledge is no longer necessary to bring and substantiate the claim, evidence that the landowner knew or "should have known" of the dangerous condition is still given significant consideration by juries.
If you have a situation concerning slip-and-fall settlements please contact the expert Florida personal injury attorney at Corless Barfield Trial Group at 877-517-5595.