Florida Premises Liability Law Allows Evidence of No Prior Similar Events

Premises liability lawyers, both Plaintiff and Defense, know that evidence of prior accidents or events may, by a showing of substantially similar conditions, be admissible to prove one or more elements of a case. Less well recognized is that no-accident history may also be admitted into evidence for a variety of purposes.

No-accident history may be admissible to show: (1) An absence of the defect or condition alleged, (2) the lack of a causal relationship between the injury and the defect or condition charged, (3) the nonexistence of an unduly dangerous situation, or (4) want of knowledge (or of grounds to realize) the danger.

Relevant cases

  • Springtree Props., Inc. v. Hammond, 692 So.2d 164, 165 (Fla.1997) (considering absence of similar accidents in determining whether fact issues remained)
  • Cent. Theatres v. Wilkinson, 154 Fla. 589, 18 So.2d 755 (1944) (evidence that for several years there had been no accident from shooting at location admissible);
  • Lewis v. Sun Time Corp., 47 So. 3d 872 3rd (Fla. 3rd DCA 2010) (allowed evidence of no-falls on wet terrazzo steps since the hotel was opened in 1937)
  • State, Dep’t of Transp. v. Patterson, 594 So.2d 830, 831 (Fla. 4th DCA 1992) (“[A]ppellant was entitled to have the jury consider that the records it still maintained revealed no bicycle accidents in the tunnel prior to the present accident.”)
  • McAllister v. Robbins, 542 So.2d 470, 471 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989) (relying in part on evidence that no one had fallen over the concrete blocks at issue during the preceding seventeen years)
  • Doe v. U.S., 718 F.2d 1039, 1043 (11th Cir.1983) (applying Florida law and approving evidence that for a number of years before the incident, there had never been a crime against a person committed on the premises)
  • Perret v. Seaboard Coast Line R.R. Co., 299 So.2d 590, 594 (Fla.1974); Williams v. Madden, 588 So.2d 41, 43 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991); Nance v. Winn Dixie Stores, Inc., 436 So.2d 1075 (Fla. 3d DCA 1983) involving the admission of testimony concerning the prior safety history of the site in question, that is, previous accidents or their absence
  • Lawrence v. Fla. E. Coast Ry. Co., 346 So.2d 1012, 1015 (Fla.1977) (“[D]eterminations of whether a proper predicate of similarity exists should be left to the sound discretion of the trial judge.”)
  • Friddle v. Seaboard Coast Line R.R. Co., 306 So.2d 97 (Fla.1974); Ry. Express Agency, Inc. v. Fulmer, 227 So.2d 870, 873 (Fla.1969); Hogan v. Gable, 30 So.3d 573, 575-76 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010); Warn Indus. v. Geist, 343 So.2d 44 (Fla. 3d DCA 1977); but cf. Godfrey v. Precision Airmotive Corp., 46 So.3d 1020 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010); Cooper v. State, 45 So.3d 490 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010) (concluding “the dissimilarities of these cases are greater than their similarities”)

Arguably, the prior history cannot be a “feature” of the trial. See Millar v. Tropical Gables Corp., 99 So.2d 589, 591 (Fla. 3d DCA 1958). Compare Hogan, 30 So.3d at 575 (erroneous admission of prior accident history reversible error in light of becoming a feature of the trial); Ford Motor Co. v. Hall-Edwards, 971 So.2d 854, 860 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007) (same).

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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.

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