During the long winter months, a weekend in Florida is a popular getaway. Frequently, hotels do not have adequate staffing to cope with the uptick in business. Other facilities open rooms or wings that are normally closed. This environment often causes serious falls, and the average jury verdict in cases like these is over $75,000.

Hotel falls are already legally complex. When the victim is from out of state, these complexities increase Some of these intricacies are found in law books, and some are not.

The bottom line is that if you or a loved one came to Florida for a vacation and left with a serious fall injury, there are legal options. A Brandon personal injury attorney can usually hold the hotel owner financially responsible for damages. These damages normally include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme cases.

Venue Issues in Out-of-State Claims

“Venue” is legalese for the place where the victim/plaintiff brings a claim for damages. Generally, that place could be either:

  • Location of the injury, or
  • Plaintiff’s residence.

Assume Rick exchanges the snowy North Dakota winter for a weekend in sunny Tampa Bay. The hotel restaurant, which is normally about half full, is bustling with activity. Rick slips and falls on some spilled coffee. Since he already suffers from osteoporosis, or bone loss, the fall causes a serious injury. He spends several days at an area hospital.

Should Rick pursue a damages claim in Florida, where the accident occurred, or in North Dakota, where he lives?

It would be more convenient for him to pursue damages in North Dakota. His lawyer might be down the street instead of in another time zone. Additionally, if the case goes to trial, Rick has the homefield advantage.

However, it might be better to pursue the claim in Florida. The evidence is here, such as witnesses and medical bills. Furthermore, Florida law is generally quite favorable in this are, as outlined below. Finally, only a fraction of these cases go to trial, so the homefield advantage thing is not a significant consideration.

Victim’s Legal Status in Florida

Some states require jurors to sift through various factors to determine the landowner’s legal responsibility in a fall case. Generally, the more moving parts a claim has, the more difficult it is to win. The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof on each of these points.

The Sunshine State is different. Hotel guests are always invitees. In these situations, the landowner has a duty of reasonable care. That duty includes a responsibility to frequently inspect the premises and take care of hazards like coffee spills.

Establishing Knowledge

Theoretical responsibility is not enough. The owner must also have known about the hazard. Once again, the victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof on this point. Evidence could be:

  • Direct: “Smoking guns” like restroom cleaning reports are usually not available in common area falls. If it exists, this type of evidence usually emerges during a lawsuit’s discovery process.
  • Circumstantial: Most courts use the time-notice rule to evaluate circumstantial evidence. Think about a banana peel on the floor. If the peel was yellow, it probably just fell. If it was black, it had probably been on the ground for awhile. In the latter instance, a hotel employee should have found the peel and should have picked it up.

Even though Rick had a pre-existing condition, if the owner knew about the spilled coffee, the owner is fully liable for damages, thanks to the eggshell skull rule. Some jurisdictions employ this rule and some do not.

Reach Out to Hard-Hitting Attorneys

Out-of-staters who fall at a local hotel should probably partner with a local lawyer. For a free consultation with an experienced Brandon personal injury attorney, contact Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).