Florida Supreme Court Reinstates Personal Injury Award In Bizarre Premises Liability Case

Recently, our Miami personal injury attorneys read a case in which the Florida Supreme Court issued a decision in Friedrich v. Fetterman & Associates, PA, reinstating a jury verdict for a plaintiff  injured in a law office chair while visiting a law firm to consult about an unrelated personal injury claim.

In Friedrich, the plaintiff, Robert Friedrich, was injured in a 2010 car accident. Following the accident, Friedrich visited the offices of the defendant law firm for a consultation about his personal injury claim. While meeting with one of the firm’s attorneys, the office chair in which Friedrich was sitting collapsed, causing him to fall and strike his head. Following the incident, Friedrich’s medical problems from the automobile accident worsened, and he ended up having surgery.

Friedrich file a law suit against the law firm he consulted. In his suit, he claimed the law firm had been negligent in failing to inspect the chair, or warn him of the dangerous condition posed by the office chair. At trial, Friedrich presented an expert to testify that the firm should have performed a “hands-on inspection” of its chairs every six months. The expert claimed that such an inspection would have revealed the defect which caused the chair to collapse. Fetterman’s expert testified that the best inspection or test for a chair is for someone to sit on it, and that any inspection, including a flex test, would not have revealed the defect.

At the conclusion of Plaintiff’s case the defense moved  for a directed verdict. A directed verdict can be entered by a judge if based on the evidence that he or she finds that no reasonable jury could reach a decision to the contrary, essentially taking away the jury’s authority to decide a case. The trial court denied Fetterman’s motion for a directed verdict. The case proceeded to the the jury and awarded Friedrich damages.

The defendant appealed. On appeal, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court, opining, “Even if the jury concluded that due care required Fetterman to inspect its chairs at regular six-month intervals, the jury had no basis from which to conclude that Fetterman would have discovered the defect in the chair…”

Friedrich then appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court reversed the Fourth District decision by a 5-2 vote reinstating the jury verdict. The Florida Supreme Court held that the issuance of a directed verdict is inappropriate when there is conflicting evidence regarding liability, or the cause of a plaintiff’s injuries exists. The Supreme Court concluded that the Fourth District improperly “substituted it’s judgment concerning the credibility of the witnesses for that of the trier of fact.”

If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of the dangerous condition of another’s premises, it is important that you discuss your case with a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. An experienced personal injury attorney can help determine the merits and value of your claim, as well as to preserve any evidence favorable to your claim.

Our Miami premises liability lawyers have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured due to the negligent actions or omissions of property owners and business operators. If you or a loved one have been injured on the premises of another, or due a negligence or careless act, contact the Miami personal injury law firm of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today.

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