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Florida Third DCA reverses trial court dismissal of negligence case against auto repair shop, rejects trial court’s conclusion that plaintiff’s theory of the case relied on impermissible stacking of inferences

On January 22, 2020, in Desvarieux v. Bridgestone Retail Operations, LLC, No. 3D17-2019, the Florida Third DCA reversed a summary judgment entered by the trial court in favor of the defendant auto repair shop in a case involving the allegedly negligent repair of a tire resulting in an accident and serious injuries to the plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed that a leaking tire had been negligently repaired at the defendant’s repair shop, and that he paid for the service in cash and did not receive a receipt. During the discovery phase of the case, various employees of the defendant testified to having no recollection of the plaintiff and testified about sales procedures that would have prevented the completion of a repair without providing a receipt to the customer. In response to the defendant’s subsequent motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff filed an affidavit from a former employee of the defendant who indicated that he had witnessed employees accepting cash for vehicle repairs without work orders. The plaintiff also claimed to be able to recognize one of the defendant’s employees as the person involved in the repair. The trial court nevertheless concluded that the plaintiff’s recollection of going to the defendant’s shop was based on an impermissible stacking of inferences, apparently because the plaintiff could not recall some specific details, such as the name of the employee who worked on his car or the exact signage in front of the shop. The Third DCA concluded that these issues were ripe for cross-examination at trial but did not constitute an impermissible stacking of inferences, citing Nielsen v. City of Sarasota, 117 So. 2d 731, 733 (Fla. 1960) to explain and distinguish that theory from the facts of this case.