Fourth DCA: Pictures that Show a Dangerous Dangerous Condition Trump Lack of Certainty on What Caused the Fall

March 4, 2016

If you have been injured in a fall accident due to a dangerous condition, taking photographs of the accident scene is a very useful step in your pursuit of justice. Due to the chaotic nature of slip and falls, the details surrounding the accident may not be immediately apparent to an injured party. Sometimes the incident happens so quickly and it is so unexpected that the person may not be certain as to what caused them to fall. A recent decision from a Florida appeals court reinforces that even if an injured party cannot testify with certainty as to what caused them to fall, pictures of the accident scene that show a dangerous condition will get the case to a jury that can produce a prevailing outcome.

In Christakis v. Tivoli Terrace, LLC, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal addressed the issue of directing a verdict in a premises liability personal injury case wherein the injured Plaintiff was not certain as to what exactly caused her fall but had strong photographic evidence. In Christakis, the Plaintiff alleged that she fell and injured herself to a dangerous condition – the Defendant’s steps. The photographic evidence, in this case, showed that the Defendant’s steps were damaged and in disrepair; the Plaintiff also called an expert to testify that the steps were dangerous. Despite a jury verdict in favor of the Plaintiff, the trial court entered a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the Defendant due to the fact that the Plaintiff did not testify with certainty that the damaged step caused her to fall.

On appeal, the Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned the trial court’s directed verdict in favor of the Defendant. The appellate court reasoned that even though the Plaintiff could not testify as to exactly what made her fall, the photographs of the damaged steps and the opinions of the Plaintiff’s expert were sufficient to make liability a jury issue. Thus, a judgment notwithstanding the verdict was improper.

In reversing the trial court’s directed verdict in favor of the Defendant, the Fourth DCA harkened back to a 1978 case with almost identical facts. In Roach v. Raubar, the Plaintiff also did not know exactly why she fell, but photographs showed that the top step was badly broken and damaged with large chunks broken from the lip of the step. The trial court in Roach entered a directed verdict in favor of the Defendant since the Plaintiff did not testify that the broken step caused her to fall. Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s directed verdict for the Defendant finding that the defective condition of the step was not a presumption but must be regarded as a fact from the photographic evidence, which unequivocally showed the dangerous condition. The court stated that under these circumstances, a jury would be able to find that the Plaintiff’s fall was occasioned by the step’s defective condition inasmuch as the evidence shows that the fall occurred at the time and place where the defective condition existed.

If you or a loved one suffers a fall accident due to a dangerous condition, it is highly advisable that you photograph the accident scene as soon as possible. It is the duty of all owners of property to keep their premises safe for visitors. Taking photographs of the dangerous condition before it can be repaired or altered gives you your highest probability of success in a resulting lawsuit.

At The Grife Law Firm, we have successfully handled a myriad of premises liability cases, including fall accidents caused by dangerous conditions such as broken steps, ramps, sidewalks, and stairways that are not up to code and slip and falls on foreign transitory substances. We are proud to offer a free consultation – call us toll-free at 855-998-0770.