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Florida First DCA affirms directed verdict for defendant hospital in slip and fall case, finding that plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence that a foreign substance was on the hallway floor where she fell

On June 1, 2021, in Tallahassee Medical Center, v. Kemp, No. 1D19-2437, the Florida First DCA reversed the trial court’s denial of a defendant’s directed verdict motion in a slip and fall case, concluding that the plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence that a foreign substance was on the floor where she fell. The plaintiff was a visitor at the defendant medical center when she slipped and fell in a hallway, fracturing her kneecap. The plaintiff claimed that she had fallen because the floor was wet, mainly relying on hospital video which showed there had been heavy traffic in the area prior to her fall, including a housekeeping cart being wheeled over the exact spot where she fell. The plaintiff argued that video evidence showed employees dragging bags of used linens and trash into a utility room and that if one of those bags had contained wet contents and the bag had split, leaked, or seeped through, then a liquid substance could have been deposited on the hallway floor where she fell. The First DCA concluded that the plaintiff’s case relied on an impermissible stacking of inferences. The Court stated that this is not an instance where the main inference underlying the plaintiff’s case—that plaintiff slipped on an employee-causedwet spot—can be established to the exclusion of other reasonableinferences, and that it is just as plausible and reasonable to inferthat no liquid was on the floor and that the wetness the plaintiff perceived came from her own flip-flops and clothes after walkinginto the hospital out of a rainstorm. The First DCA cited other decisions as supporting its conclusion, including Publix Super Markets, Inc. v. Schmidt, 509 So. 2d 977, 978 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987),and Evens v. E. Air Lines, Inc., 468 So. 2d 1111 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985). The First DCA distinguished Feris v. Club Country of Fort Walton Beach, Inc., 138 So. 3d 531, 535–36 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014), and Torrence v. Sacred Heart Hosp., 251 So. 2d 899, 901–02 (Fla. 1st DCA 1971), two cases in which the plaintiff had prevailed on this issue, noting that in both of those cases the circumstantial evidence in the plaintiff’s favor was stronger. The published decision includes a lengthy dissent by Judge Makar.

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