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Watch Your Ramp
by Ron Davis
A Florida court of law has assisted in establishing blame for personal injuries that occur in and around the state’s many shopping centers.
The precedent for the legal action in this case arose after a tenant’s fulltime employee suffered an injury while on her way to work at a Tampa shopping center. Prior to her injury, she had arrived at her choice of a parking garage and began making her way to the main center building that contains her place of work.
Before she reached that building, however, she stepped onto a 12-inch-diameter metal plate that was located below ground and covered with leaves and dirt. That plate plus the debris apparently caused her to fall. As a result of that fall, she fractured her right ankle. She subsequently sued the shopping center owners, charging them with negligence in failing to provide a safe area in which to park.
But, in fact, the shopping center owners do not own the parking lot where the woman fell, though they did provide her with a parking pass that she could use at the parking lot she had selected.
The state of Florida has enacted a law that seems to cover an accident of the type as this one. That law states, “An injury sustained by an employee with fixed hours and place of work who is injured while going to or coming from work is in the course of employment if it occurred on the employer’s premises.” Obviously, that rule as in this case does not apply because the injury occurred off the employer’s premises.
The Florida Judge of Compensation Claims, after hearing the facts presented by both parties, and with the knowledge of the rules that cover such situations, sided in favor of the shopping center owners.
In answer to that judge’s decision, the employee pointed out that her employer had provided her with a parking pass, allowing her to park at the parking lot that she had selected. But the court pointed out that the injured woman’s employer never instructed its employees to take a specific route from the parking garage to her place of work at the shopping center. Moreover, on the day of her injury, the woman had chosen to walk down a ramp designed for use by automobiles, not pedestrians. And it was on the ramp that her injury occurred.
On appeal of that finding, the court agreed that the injured woman had simply chosen the inappropriate place to park and then had chosen a route to her place of work that presented the possibility of an accident…. “Extending a special hazard exception to these facts is simply more than the law will allow,” the presiding judge concluded.
(Evans v. Holland & Knight, District Court of Appeals of Florida, Fifth District, No. IDI5—4080.)
Decision June 2016
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