Posted By Alan Sackrin on July 21, 2015
Last Update: 6/2/16
Everyday, lots of people spend their vacation in South Florida with families playing on the beach, and couples enjoying the cosmopolitan nightlife and our world renown gourmet restaurants located in the tri-county area (Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties). Did you know that Florida is the top travel destination in the world? Which means there are lots and lots of hotels here; in fact, the State of Florida records had over 370,000 hotel rooms here in 2011 — and more hotel rooms are being built here all the time.
Did You Have an Accident in Your Florida Hotel Room?
As a guest in one of these Florida hotel rooms, you are expected to enjoy your stay, including being pampered by room service, the pool and spa – but what happens if you are hurt in your room from a fall? No one plans an accident as part of their holiday; however, if you are hurt during your trip to South Florida, then you should know that Florida’s premises liability law will help you recover compensation for your accident.
If you can show that the hotel was negligent, then the hotel owner and operator can be held liable for your injuries. The hotel may be legally liable for your damages as defined by Florida law; these include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and more.
However, you will have the legal duty to prove the hotel is responsible. Pursuant to Florida Statute 768.0755 an injured party must show the hotel was aware of the dangerous condition (actual knowledge), or should have been aware of it (constructive knowledge). That may be a difficult thing to prove, considering that you got hurt in your own guest room bath, but it can be done.
1. Proving Negligence in a Fall in a Hotel Bathtub or Shower
In Cooper Hotel Services, Inc. v. MacFarland, Mrs. MacFarland slipped and fell while taking a shower in her hotel room’s bathroom. The hotel would not honor her claim for damages and she was forced to sue the hotel. Her duty under Florida premises liabilty law was to prove with admissible evidence that the hotel had been negligent, breaching its duty of care to her.
Mrs. MacFarland had a hard case to prove, given that she had fallen in the tub while the water was running and she was alone at the time. Hers was one of the common shower – bathtub combos, and the key to her case according to the court, was the need to provide evidence of the condition of that bathtub’s structure. In the case, the court discussed how someone hurt in a fall, alone in a hotel shower or bathtub, can prove their case.
The case explains that Florida hotels need to make sure that their rooms have secure, safe showers and baths because of the high risk of falls on slippery wet floors. The hotels need to have things like handrails in showers and near toilets; as well as non-slip surfaces on bathroom floors. Rugs need to be backed with non-slip protections, too.
Additionally, Florida hotels have a duty to inspect their rooms routinely to insure that these anti-fall protections are in place and working. Handrails need to be tight, not loose. Non-slip protections on bathtubs need to be clean and working. If the tub has a textured surface, then the surface needs to be clean and not slippery from soap scum.
Accident victims in bathroom slip and fall cases must provide admissible evidence of things like:
- The hotel failing to make diligent inquiries to secure proper tubs for its hotel establishment;
- The tub installed in the room failing to meet the required non-slip specifications;
- The hotel failing to properly maintain the tub;
- The tub was unreasonably dangerous at the time of the accident; and
- That the hotel failed to warn the guest of this concealed peril of which it knew or should have known.
2. Is the Hotel Liable?: Tripping On a Rolled-Up Bath Mat in The Middle of the Night
In Rubey v. William Morris, Inc., Mrs. Rubey was a hotel guest who got up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, and was hurt when she slipped on the floor of her hotel room’s bathroom: she tripped over a bath mat that had been left on the floor rolled up and not laid out flat on the floor. The hotel refused to honor her claim, so she sued. Noting that this was an expensive hotel suite, the court pointed out that Mrs. Rubey and her husband had a right to assume that their hotel room would be “… reasonably free from defects or obstructions that might cause injury.”
It was reasonable that she would go into the bathroom in “semi-darkness” in the middle of the night and that she would have “a reasonable expectation that she would find the room in the condition that unused bathrooms in the guest rooms of a hotel are generally kept and maintained.”
Mrs. Rubey’s argument that it was not reasonable for a guest to be on the alert for a rolled up rug to be left on the bathroom floor, and that by not having that rug lying flat caused a dangerous condition for which the hotel was responsible succeeded. The court agreed with her.
A big point: she would have had to cross the room in order to turn on the overhead bathroom light. The light switch was on the other side of the room from the entrance with the rolled up bath rug between her and that switch.
How Can Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Add Value?
Most Florida hotel rooms are safe and well maintained and most owners use their best efforts to keep things that way. However, when someone is hurt in a fall in a Florida hotel or motel, the injured party can expect a vigorous defense by the property owner and their insurance company. Having an experienced premises liability lawyer to help build a case, someone who has the authority to gather and request admissible evidence (and knowing which experts to hire — and knowing what type of economic and non-economic damages to seek, etc.) to combat the owner’s position, can be the difference between winning and losing a case. Slip and fall cases are not the easiest cases to win, but this does not mean that justice should not prevail.
What Should You Do Now?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed by a slip and fall, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
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