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Florida Fifth DCA reverses trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s pro se premises liability negligence complaint against county library, finds that plaintiff sufficiently stated claim against library

On May 31, 2019, in Maldonado v. Orange County Public Library System, No. 5D18-2800, the Florida Fifth DCA reversed a trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint against the defendant county library.  The plaintiff, who was representing herself pro se, claimed that she tripped and fell over the bottom drawer of a photocopier at the library after it “came loose and suddenly flew wide opened.” In reversing the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a cause of action, the Fifth DCA observed that Florida is a fact-pleading jurisdiction, not a notice-pleading jurisdiction, requiring only that the complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the ultimate facts showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.110(b).  To state a cause of action for negligence, a complaint must allege: “(1) a duty to the plaintiff; (2) the defendant’s breach of that duty; (3) injury to the plaintiff arising from the defendant’s breach; and (4) damage caused by the injury to the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty.” Delgado v. Laundromax, Inc., 65 So. 3d 1087, 1089 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011).  The Fifth DCA specifically noted that the plaintiff’s complaint alleged the duty involved, i.e., that the defendant had a duty to use reasonable care in maintaining the machine to ensure that it was safe for use by patrons.