Articles Tagged with “Premises liability”

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Experienced personal injury lawyers know all too well that dangerous conditions exist all around us as soon as we leave our home. Over the past four decades, Leesfield Scolaro’s trial attorneys have seen unsuspecting members of the public suffer horrific injuries as a result of just about every conceivable construction defect, building code violation, and failure to use the slightest degree of care in maintaining premises.

In many premises liability cases, inspection of the injury location is the defining moment of the case. The attorney brings his or her wealth of experience to the scene to evaluate the conditions, and equally important, the retained experts conduct their scientific testing. The vast majority of trial lawyers appreciate the importance of site inspections; however, the need to conduct inspections immediately is often lost. Trial lawyers must do everything possible to secure their inspection as quickly as possible, which may dictate the strategy of their representation. In many cases, the failure to conduct an immediate inspection may jeopardize crucial evidence or even doom the case altogether.

IMG_3525_resize-300x200Take for example a case our law firm recently resolved involving a negligently maintained bathtub surface at a Days Inn hotel. Our client turned on the water, took one step onto the tub surface, and slipped immediately, resulting in a significant hip fracture. Our client reported to us that the shower surface was so slippery it felt like she stepped onto ice. She explained that the anti-slip coating on the surface appeared to be excessively worn and neglected. By the time the client contacted us, weeks had already passed, and the bathtub surface remained in service for other guests. Under the law, we would not be able to arrange an expert inspection of the tub until a lawsuit was filed. Accordingly, we refused to delay by trying to resolve the case without litigation. We immediately filed our lawsuit and, with the lawsuit, served on the hotel a Notice of Inspection for the earliest possible date the rules of procedure allowed. Later, when the hotel’s attorneys asked to postpone the unilaterally scheduled inspection, we respectfully declined in the interest of our client. The inspection proceeded just weeks after we were retained, and our expert engineer confirmed the hotel’s failure to comply with industry standards for slip resistance. The most crucial evidence in the case was preserved, and the hotel ultimately settled with our client for $675,000. Had we not aggressively pursued an immediate inspection, the hotel would have had a valid argument that a later inspection would not be representative of the conditions at the time of our client’s fall due to “months and months” of continued wear and tear by continued use, scrubbing, cleaning solutions, and so on.

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They say “a picture is worth a thousand words.” As we have seen in many of our premises liability cases, pictures can be worth far more. When our clients are severely injured as a result of dangerous or defective premises, their health is understandably their primary focus. Pain and shock take over. An ambulance is often called to rush the victims away from the scene for medical evaluation. slipping-154577_960_720.png The last thing on their mind is preserving evidence by taking photographs of the dangerous condition. Who can blame them?

Our firm recently handled a case that demonstrated just how important it is to photograph the scene after an injury. Our client was leaving a fast food restaurant when she slipped while walking down an outdoor staircase. She fell down several stairs to the ground and suffered severe injuries, requiring multiple surgeries. When her husband met her in the emergency room shortly after the incident, she explained that her foot slipped off a stair that felt “slimy” and “oily.” Her husband drove to the scene of the incident shortly thereafter and noticed that the stairs were covered in thick layers of mold and mildew, which are known to be extremely slippery on walking surfaces. He also noticed the restaurant employees preparing to scrub the staircase with soap and industrial brushes in response to his wife’s fall. He immediately took out his cell phone and snapped several photographs of the filthy staircase before it was scrubbed.

Months later, the general manager of the restaurant was shown these photographs at her deposition. She had no choice but to admit that the staircase was unacceptable and unsafe for guests. This allowed our firm to secure a settlement that covered 100% of her medical expenses and lost wages, and a substantial additional sum for her pain and suffering. Had her husband not taken those photographs, it would have been far more difficult to prove the extent of this hazard, or that the hazard existed at all.

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A month after falling off the balcony at a North Bay Village apartment complex, Jimmy O’Reilly is still at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Critically injured, it is still unknown whether Jimmy will be able to walk again.

In its on-camera investigation, Local 10 asked the same questions Tom Scolaro, attorney for Jimmy O’Reilly, has been asking; Where were the owner and the property manager? Why were the balconies and railings never fixed despite numerous complaints by multiple tenants?

“This was a recipe for disaster. You have an absentee owner and a property manager that was indifferent to the tenant complaints. Owners and managers must be responsible for maintaining their property. When they are not, and good people are gravely injured, it is our job to hold them accountable to the fullest extent the law allows” said Scolaro.

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A landowner owes two duties to its business invitee: (1) he must use reasonable care to keep his premises in a reasonably safe condition; and (2) he must give the invitee warning of concealed perils which are or should have been known to him, and which are unknown to the invitee despite the exercise of due care. Furthermore, a landowner is liable for injuries caused by inadequate lighting in that the lighting failed to show the true size, shape, and height of curbing over which patron tripped.

Recently, Leesfield Scolaro resolved a personal injury claim on behalf of a Canadian tourist who sustained massive facial injuries when he tripped and fell face-first on the corner of a sidewalk in Palm Beach County. The incident was caused by the lack of illumination, which at the time, should have been in operation.

A local ordinances provides in part that minimum-maintained lighting shall be provided from dusk until thirty (30) minutes after the termination of business each operating day. According to records from the ambulance company and testimonies gathered from the witnesses, the incident occurred well after duck, at a time where multiple lighting poles should have been in operation. There were not.

dark-parking-log.jpgAs a result, this Canadian tourist, who was unfamiliar with the premises at dusk, tripped over an unlit obstacle and fell forward. He sustained multiple fracture to his nose and orbital bone which have caused life-altering and debilitating changes in his life, and personality. This claim was recently resolved before trial for $262,500.

The aggressive representation by Leesfield & Parters allowed to establish multiple failures on behalf of the defendant owner including:

  • Failure to provide adequate lighting to the premises so as to ensure the safety of business invitees
  • Failure to inspect the premises regularly and to maintain the premises so as to protect business invitees from encountering dangerous and hazardous conditions
  • Failure to inspect the lighting and lighting poles of the premises regularly
  • Violation of multiple local ordinances and Florida Statutes requiring minimum0maintained lighting at certain hours of the day

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