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In Christakis v. Tivoli Terrace, LLC, 41 Fla. L. Weekly D121b (Fla. 4th DCA Jan. 6, 2016), the 4th DCA held that it was error to enter a directed verdict in favor of defendant where there was conflicting evidence as to the causation of plaintiff's alleged slip and fall on steps. Although plaintiff could not testify as to exactly what made her fall, expert evidence and photos of the steps established that the steps were in disrepair.

During trial, Ms. Christakis alleged that she fell on steps owned by Tivoli Terrace. Ms. Christakis could not testify as to what made her fall. However, she presented evidence that the steps were in a damaged condition. Presumably, the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff. The trial court entered a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of Tivoli Terrace.

On appeal, the 4th DCA reasoned that there was conflicting evidence as to causation. The 4th DCA emphasized that the defective condition of the step had to be regarded as a fact based on the photographic evidence and Ms. Christakis' testimony. There was sufficient evidence for the jury to find that Ms. Christakis' fall was caused by the defective condition. The fall occurred at the time and place where the defective condition existed.

The 4th DCA reversed the judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The appellate court emphasized that a directed verdict is not appropriate in cases where there is conflicting evidence as to causation.


 

 

This summary was prepared by Meredith Stephens of our firm.


Meredith Stephens

 

 

41 Fla. L. Weekly D121b

 

Torts -- Premises liability -- Fall on stairs -- Error to enter directed verdict in favor of defendant where there was conflicting evidence as to causation -- Although plaintiff could not testify as to exactly what made her fall, expert evidence and photos of steps established that steps on which plaintiff fell were in disrepair

HEIDI CHRISTAKIS, Appellant, v. TIVOLI TERRACE, LLC, Appellee. 4th District. Case No. 4D14-3378. January 6, 2016. Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Michael Gates, Judge; L.T. Case No. 12-017744 (12). Counsel: Marcus J. Susen and Justin R. Parafinczuk of Koch Parafinczuk & Wolf, P.A., for appellant. Julie Bork Glassman and Eduardo Cosio of Cosio Law Group, Coral Gables, for appellee.

(PER CURIAM.) We reverse the judgment notwithstanding the verdict entered in this negligence case involving the appellant's fall on stairs. A directed verdict is not appropriate in cases where there is conflicting evidence as to causation. Sanders v. ERP Operating Ltd. P'ship, 157 So. 3d 273 (Fla. 2015). In this case, there was conflicting evidence as to causation, as the appellant showed that the steps on which she fell were in disrepair. Although she could not testify as to exactly what made her fall, the evidence presented by both the expert and the photos of the steps showed their damaged condition. Thus, this case is factually almost identical to Roach v. Raubar, 362 So. 2d 84 (Fla. 3d DCA 1978). There, the plaintiff also did not know why she fell, but photos showed that the step upon which she fell was damaged. Thus, the court concluded that the plaintiff was not building inference upon inference because the damage to the step was established:

[T]he defective condition of the step was not a presumption but must be regarded as a fact from the photographic evidence and plaintiff's testimony. Under the circumstances of this case, the jury would be entitled to find that the plaintiff's fall was occasioned by the defective condition inasmuch as the evidence shows that the fall occurred at the time and place where the defective condition existed.

Id. at 85. The same result is required in this case. The court erred in entering judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

Reversed and remanded for entry of a judgment upon the jury verdict. (WARNER, MAY, JJ., and GILLEN, JEFFREY DANA, Associate Judge, concur.)

 

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