Premises liability (i.e., slip-and-fall) accidents

Florida premises law has recently undergone some radical change. In November of 2001, the Florida Supreme Court changed the way these will be handled. They decided in the Owens vs. Publix case that the existence of a foreign substance on the floor of a business premises that causes a customer to fall and be injured is not a safe condition and the existence of that unsafe condition creates a rebuttable presumption that the premises owner did not maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.

Thus, once the injured person establishes that he or she fell as a result of a foreign substance, a rebuttable presumption of negligence arises. At that point, the burden shifts to the defendant to show by greater weight of the evidence that it exercised reasonable care in the maintenance of its premises under the circumstances. The circumstances could include the nature and specific hazard of the defendant's business.

Basically, the burden was shifted from the injured party to the defendant to show how long a foreign substance was on the floor. This makes good sense because the premises owners are in a better position to establish that they did or did not maintain the premises in a safe condition and they are generally in a superior position to ascertain what occurred by making an immediate investigation, interviewing witnesses and taking photographs. In each of these cases, the nature of the defendant's business gives rise to a substantial risk of injury to customers from slip and fall accidents.

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