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Florida Fourth DCA affirms summary judgment for defense in premises liability case, finds that inferred facts cannot rely on earlier inference unless it excludes all other reasonable inferences

On December 13, 2017, in Davie Plaza v. Iordanoglu, No. 4D16-1846, the Florida Fourth DCA affirmed a trial court’s summary judgment for the defense in a premises liability case involving a worker’s fall from a ladder while trying to clear water from the roof of a commercial building. The plaintiff’s theory at trial was that the worker, who could not recall why he fell, had placed the ladder in an area of broken concrete, and that the defendant was responsible for the defective condition of the concrete. The Fourth DCA noted that to prove a prima facie case of negligence and an ultimate fact, such as proximate cause, circumstantial evidence can be used “as effectively and as conclusively” as direct positive evidence, but if a party depends upon the inferences to be drawn from circumstantial evidence as proof of one fact, it cannot construct a further inference upon the initial inference in order to establish a further fact unless it can be found that the original, basic inference was established to the exclusion of all other reasonable inferences. Nielsen v. City of Sarasota, 117 So. 2d 731, 733 (Fla. 1960). The Fourth DCA concluded that the initial inference that the plaintiff was attempting to establish, that the worker had in fact placed his ladder on a defective area of the concrete, could not be made to the exclusion of all other reasonable inferences because there were other areas in which the ladder could have been placed and because of a lack of evidence that the concrete in that area was even broken or defective.