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We received a call from a perspective client who told us that no one was paying any attention to her case after she had been injured over six-months ago. She was returning home from a restaurant and walking through her front yard when she tripped and fell in a drainage hole. She shattered her left ankle and required open reduction internal fixation surgery at a hospital. We knew that the client had suffered serious life changing injuries. On March 22, 2022, we filed a premises liability lawsuit in the 12thJudicial Circuit which serves Desoto, Manatee & Sarasota Counties.
A premises Liability case in Florida requires a person to show negligence on the part of the company through proving the following key elements: (1) the property owner or manager owed you a duty of care, (2) the property owner or manager breached the duty of care owed to you, (3) the breach caused you to suffer injuries and (4) actual damages resulted. In our case, the property management company was a large multi-national company with billions of dollars in yearly revenue and a tremendous amount of resources to fight.
Here, we knew that proving The first Element (1) would be easy because our client was lawfully on the property as a tenant renting an apartment at the location of the accident. We also knew that Element (4) would be obvious to most people because our client had to undergo a very serious surgery that required rods and hardware to be placed into her left ankle. However, Elements (2) and (3) would be difficult because to show that the property management company breached their duty of care, we would need to show that the property company knew or should have known about the dangerous condition and therefore had an opportunity to make it safe or warn our client of the danger.
Proving breach and causation required us to conduct discovery against the at fault company. As attorneys we are able to take depositions of the representatives of the at fault company. The company is required to designate a “Corporate Representative” to answer our questions under oath as if they were conducted in a court room. During the deposition of the Corporate Representative of the company it became clear that the property management firm could very well have known about the dangerous condition and should have done more to keep the premises safe. The Corporate Representative was evasive to our questions and sought to place blame for the accident on our client. However, after skillful interrogation the representative began to admit that the condition would be something that could cause injuries to persons on the property. Further, she admitted that had the company been aware of the hole that had formed next to the drain ditch, they would have done something to make it safe.
See Below for a highlighted section where the Corporate Representative admits they would have corrected the condition:
Although we still were not able to show direct knowledge of the case we had established throughout the hour and a half long deposition that there was enough of evidence and testimony to show that the company could have known about the condition. This is known as “constructive knowledge” and is very difficult to prove in any case. Specifically in our case it was even more challenging because the condition was artificial and experts had told us that this hole could have formed over night from a heavy rain. If that was the case then the company could very well escape liability by claiming to not have enough time to discovery it. Both sides knew that if the case were to proceed to a jury trial in front of a random selection of six (6) jurors, the case could either result in a very large verdict for the Plaintiff (our client) or a very low verdict for the Defense since a jury could have found our client mostly at fault or that the company didn’t know about this hole.
Ultimately, on February 24, 2023, a little over eleven (11) months after filing the lawsuit, we reached a settlement agreement for $250,000 in a premises liability suit against a multi-national property management company. At mediation the defense law firm knew that we had built up this case and were ready to proceed to trial if they did not give us a fair offer. We were not expecting to get more than $80,000 for this case. The initial offer was $20,000. The company had thousands of employees with over 1.9 billion in annual revenue. Therefore, it was important that our client got attorneys who were not afraid to do work harder to get her a just outcome because large companies often try to use their power and resources to bully injury victims into taking less than they deserve in compensation.
Tom Harris, Florida Injury Attorney, has over 39 years of experience, including 17 years of defending insurance companies before reinventing his law practice to represent injured people as a personal injury attorney.
Kyle Harris is a Florida licensed attorney who joined the family practice after starting his career as a licensed attorney in California