“Slip and Fall” Tort Litigation Guidance for Business Owners
Business owners have a large amount of responsibility to secure their premises from dangerous conditions that may be hazardous to their patrons. That is part of the cost of operating a business. However, when a claim is filed, the business owner must make assertive decisions to ensure that the litigation is proper and that their rights are protected. There are various moving parts that a legal professional will analyze to arrive at the best course of action. Further, implementing best practices for the business will provide some security against claims.
Elements of the Legal Claim
Anyone making a claim for personal injury against a business owner must prove three elements in the state of Florida. For one, the claimant must prove to the court that there was a standard of care in place of which the business owner failed to meet. In other words, the business in inviting customers to conduct business at the establishment behaved in a negligent manner that did not comport with the standard of care carved out for business owners. Secondly, the claimant must prove that the business owner did not use reasonable care in operating the premises of the business. When this occurs, a dangerous condition remains unattended. Finally, there must exist a nexus–the claimant must prove to the court that the business owner’s negligence or omission caused injury.
When faced with a “slip and fall” tort claim, the best legal strategy for the business owner is to prove that the claimant’s lawsuit is invalid. To invalidate the claim, the defendant (the business owner) must invalidate the elements of the cause of action. For example, the business owner, with grounds for believing that the plaintiff was a trespasser, can show that the standard of care never arose given that legal status of the plaintiff at the time of the accident. In the same vein, the business owner can prove that reasonable care was taken to eliminate the dangerous condition. Depending on the strength of the plaintiff’s case, the business owner may consider an out-of-court settlement as the best solution. Before agreeing to a settlement agreement, the business owner should analyze the plaintiff’s case and his or her likelihood of success in court. This analysis is coupled with an assessment of the monies that must be paid should the plaintiff win as opposed to the monies paid at settlement. This process is a delicate one and requires a calculation of legal outcomes.
For business owners, the best practice is to avoid the lawsuit all together. This includes the implementation of safety and monitoring standards that will curb the existence of dangerous conditions. Further, it is important for business owners to possess knowledge of the laws in one’s state and local as it relates to personal injury claims. With knowledge of the applicable elements, the business owner becomes cognizant of the potential liabilities and how to avoid them.
Let Us Help You Today
Owning a business is often a risky endeavor. However, with knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel, it does not have to be. Brendan Sweeney is a skilled Fort Lauderdale business lawyer with experience litigating business tort cases. If you have any questions and/or issues related to a negligence case occurring at your place of business, contact us now for a consultation.