Court Decides What Law Applies to 2005 Slip and Fall Injury Lawsuit

It’s not often that a court has to determine what the law was, and what law applied, almost five years previously. But a recent slip and fall case has caused a court to evaluate whether a law changed back in 2010 should apply to an accident that happened in 2005.

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Child Falls on Substance in a Mall

A woman alleged that in 2005, her minor son fell on a slippery substance in shopping mall, right near a Chick-Fil-A restaurant. She sued for his injuries, alleging the restaurant negligently allowed the foreign substance to remain on the floor, and knew or should have known it was there, thus creating a dangerous condition.

In depositions, the family recalled a large, slowing puddle of liquid on the floor, not just a small wet spot. Although the fall actually occurred on shopping mall property, and not on the restaurant’s premises, the family testified that they could tell the puddle was coming from Chick-Fil-A’s restaurant area.

The Changing Slip and Fall Laws

The problem is that in 2010, the slip and fall laws changed, requiring an injured party show that a business had control over the area where the victim was injured. A victim also had to show that a business knew or had constructive knowledge that a dangerous condition existed. In other words, a party had to show a defendant was “actively negligent” by having actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous substance.

Under the 2010 law, a victim would have to show, for example, how long a substance was on the floor, or that policies or procedures weren’t maintained that would have allowed a business to discover the substance. The standard was thus much higher for accident victims trying to prove their claim.

Court Determines If Law is Retroactive

So did the 2010 law change apply to the victim’s 2005 accident? The real question is whether the new law is retroactive. Generally, laws that change substantive rights are not retroactive. Those that just change procedure, however, can be.

Making this problem more difficult was that there were only a few previous rulings dealing with this issue, and each had been determined differently—some allowing the statute to be retroactively applied, and some not.

The court here decided not to make the statute retroactive, determining it altered an injured party’s substantive rights. Thus, the victim only had to show there was no reasonable care in the maintenance and inspection of the premises—not that Chick-Fil-A actually knew or should have known there was a substance on the floor.

Because only Chick-Fil-A employees were allowed inside the kitchen area of the restaurant, and that’s where the liquid was flowing from, the court determined that the victims could make a negligence claim against the restaurant.

The court did certify the issue to the Florida Supreme Court, a process by which a court can ask the Supreme Court to render an opinion, when many appellate courts are divided over a particular issue. It’s unknown whether the Supreme Court will accept the invite.

Slip and fall cases can have serious damages, and may be fact-intensive. Talk to the Miami personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your fall case and to understand how the law applies in your situation.

Photo Credit: pht via Compfight cc

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