Florida appellate court rules in favor of plaintiff in slip and fall case
In personal injury cases in Florida, the jury has to make a decision as to whether to believe part or all of the account of events presented by the defendant. They must decide whether there are any genuine issues of material fact. However, judges must decide matters of law, and they are required to permit the jury to hear all relevant evidence that is not prohibited by law.
In the case of McNabb v. Taylor Elevator Corp., the district appellate court considered whether an expert witness revealed a genuine issue of material fact in his affidavit, and whether the trial court was in error when it sided with the defendant’s summary judgment, thereby resulting in a dismissal of the case. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit after suffering injuries from slipping on an oil leak close to an elevator on a condominium complex.
Before the accident, an elevator seal broke and leaked into the machine room and hallway where the plaintiff fell. According to testimony given by the elevator service technician, the leak was dripping every two seconds, and the depth of the oil was a quarter-inch. In his lawsuit, plaintiff alleged negligent maintenance of the elevator and the surrounding area. The defendants, who included the condominium association and the elevator servicing company, contended that the testimony of the inspectors proved that there was no valid claim of negligent maintenance because a leak did not exist during the time of the inspection.
The plaintiff then presented testimony of his own expert witness, who was a mechanical engineer. He gave his opinion that the seal had experienced a leak between 4 ½ and 18 days. The expert arrived at his conclusion on the basis of the following factors: the rate of the drip, the depth of the oil and the dimensions of the machine room.
However, the trial court disregarded the affidavit of the plaintiff’s expert witness, and granted defendant’s summary judgment. The court believed that the expert’s reasoning was not based on facts, and that he was not making statements that were consistent with the pleadings. The plaintiff filed an appeal, and contended that his expert established a genuine issue of material fact. The appellate court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and held that the expert’s affidavit created a genuine issue of fact. Thus, there was a reversal of the summary judgment, and the plaintiff could resume his lawsuit.