Amusement-Park-Ride-150x150In the State of Florida and other States, amusement parks and theme parks provide fun and excitement in the form of roller coaster rides, carousel rides, ferris wheel rides, and rides.  Some amusement park rides go quite slow and involve little force, friction, or height.  However, any mechanical ride can pose a threat to riders if there is a malfunction, design defect, or operation error.  This is especially the case with roller coasters that involve great heights, sharp turns, and twists and turns at high speeds.  A recent incident that took place in Daytona Beach, Florida at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk.  It was reported that two riders fell from the Sand Blaster Roller Coaster ride.  There were a total of nine riders injured as a result of the incident.  For more information regarding this incident, see Roller Coast Ride Accident – Daytona Beach – Personal Injuries and History of Ride Inspections by the State of Florida

With most legal cases involving a personal injury, there are four elements of the case to establish as follows:

1 – Duty;

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There is a common danger in homes, day care centers, schools, and other facilities.  The common danger is in the form of window blinds.  There are injury risks associated with window blind cords including those related to bruises, cuts, scrapes, and most significantly strangulation.  While it is well known and widely reported that window blind cords represent a significant risk to small children, reports of injuries continue to take place because safety precautions were not taken by the applicable child care provider.

It is estimated that approximately 17,000 children under the age of six years old were admitted to a hospital between the time period of 1990 and 2015 due to window blind related personal injuries.  The same report estimated that one child per month died as a result of window blind cord strangulation during this time period.  Toddlers and small children have poor safety awareness.  As such, what appears to be fun to a toddler can actually pose a significant danger.  The report on window blind injuries gathered together data from emergency rooms.  As such, there are most likely more injuries that took place than were part of this study.

While there have been proposals and recommendations by the United States Product Safety Commission as to standards to make cords covered and / or unreachable by children, these recommendations have not been approved or placed into law as of yet.

City-Park-Liability-150x150In the State of Florida, many people are under the mistaken belief that a government entity is immune from civil liability when there is a personal injury or wrongful death that takes place on property maintained, controlled, and / or owned by a government entity.   If a government entity or an agent / employee of a government entity is negligent or careless, a civil case or claim can be brought against the government entity to seek compensation for the personal injuries, wrongful death, and related damages.  It should be noted that civil cases or claims against a government entity in the State of Florida are handled or treated differently than cases against private individuals, privately owned businesses, and publicly held businesses or corporations like Wal-Mart, Disney World, and other entities.

When an adult or child is injured as a result of the negligence of a government entity, the rules, policies, notices, and restrictions set forth in Section 728.28, Florida Statutes apply.   This statute is known as the “Sovereign Immunity” statute.  The name is a bit misleading. The word “Sovereign” refers to a government entity.  The word “Immunity” typically refers to a shield against liability or responsibility.  As such, the term “Sovereign Immunity” is a bit misleading.  The truth is that a government entity in the State of Florida can and should be held legally liable and financially responsible for injuries that result from careless or negligent acts.  The statute does restrict the amount that can be recovered to $200,000 per incident or $300,000 per incident.  An injury victim or the family of the injury victim can collect more than the amount limited by statute but only by the passage of a Claims Bill before the Florida legislature and ultimately signed off by the Governor.  Claims Bills are very difficult to pursue and get passed.  As such, the majority of claims against government entities in the State of Florida result in compensation at or below the caps as set forth in the Florida Statute on point.

In Jacksonville, Florida, it was reported that a 3 year old boy – Amari Harley – died as a result of a drowning in a septic tank area as part of a City of Jacksonville park – Bruce Park.  The medical technical cause of death was reported as asphyxia due to inhaling septic tank contents.  While there have been a number of news reports on the tragic death of this young child, there have been no reports as to how this small child was able to get into or fall into the septic tank area.  City officials and other landowners should be well aware of the presence of children in a park area and the dangers of septic tank areas like the ones present at Bruce Park.

Swing-Set-150x150Swing sets are commonly placed, seen, and maintained on playgrounds.  When a child is injured during the use of swings on a playground, there may be liability or responsibilities on the part off the city, school, day care center, and / or owner of the property where the swing set is located.  There should be a distinction made between a person, business, or other entity who / that is the supervisor of children and a person, business, or other entity who / that is the owner of the property where the playground / swing set is located.
Supervision of Children
When a child is under the care and supervision of a school, day care center, summer camp, or other program, it is important that reasonable and necessary care be provided to the child.  Playground equipment and play should be age appropriate. Furthermore, children should be supervised in a reasonably careful manner.  Rough or dangerous play should be stopped immediately.  Swings are a known hazard for those playing around the swings and for those children on the swings.  As such, child care providers and supervisors should be on the look out for dangerous play that may result in personal injuries including injuries related to strangulation during playground use.  If a child while using swings is twisting and turning around, a child care provider should immediately step in as this is not the proper or safe use of the swing set.  If the dangerous play continues, the child care provider should promptly remove the child from the swing set area.

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A death that shook a family, neighborhood, and community is still under investigation according to a recent news report. Amari Harley, age 3, died on October 22 after getting stuck in a city septic tank system at a City of Jacksonville (Duval County) park.  The death certificate listed “accidental drowning” as the cause of death.  This means, that following the autopsy, it was determined that the drowning was the cause of the death rather than some other cause like a stroke, heart attack, or some kind of unknown or previously undiagnosed congenital medical condition.  While the cause of death has been established, the preventability and safety measures surrounding this incident are still under investigation.
This raises the question as to whether the City of Jacksonville should be held liable for the death of this child.  In other words, is the City of Jacksonville legally liable for this “accidental drowning”?  When evaluating a legal case involving a personal injury, research is often conducted by an attorney in form of a review of allocable laws, statutes, ordinances, and case law.  It is important that there is legal precedence or authority to pursue a case or claim on behalf of the injured child and the family.  There are essentially four elements associated with a negligence case or claim as follows:
1 – Duty;

Hazing-Fraternity-Sorority-150x150In the State of Florida, it is a crime for a person to haze another person.  It is not a defense to the action if the hazing, abuse, or pressure is connected to admission, entry, or membership into an organization, club, fraternity, or sorority.  It should be noted that the crime of hazing is different from a prior and element standpoint than a civil case on behalf of a victim subjected to hazing acts like physical abuse or drinking games that lead to serious injury or even death of the victim, pledge, or applicant.  With respect to a civi case involving negligence or abusive conduct, there are four elements to establish:

Duty;

Breach of Duty;

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Halloween is a holiday mostly celebrated by children and for children. There are also adult parties and adult participation; however, the core part of Halloween is the journey through the neighborhood engaged in the tradition of visiting houses and collecting candy just by virtue of the statement “Trick or Treat”.  Let’s face it, there is a certain paradise for children on Halloween which is in the form of “Free Candy”.   Dressing home and pretending to be a favorite Disney character or super hero is pretty cool as well.  For most children, Halloween evening / night is just about the best night of the year.  For others unfortunately, Halloween night can be the time in which a child suffers a serious personal injury or even dies due to the negligence of others.

Some tragic events that take place during Halloween can be avoided.  Here are some safety tips to keep in mind.  Some are fairly basic and well know.  Nevertheless, it is important to keep these tips in mind and actually follow them to make Halloween night as safe as possible:

Don’t Trick or Treat at All.  Find alternatives to the door-to-door trick or treat journey.  Have a party.  Have the neighbors gather together in one place for a candy distribution.  While it does seem counter intuitive to discourage traditional trick or treat activities, having children remain in one general area or home can avoid many accidents or incidents from taking place.

Scales-of-Justice-Yellow-and-Blue-150x150In the State of Florida, a property owner or landowner whether a private person, business, or government entity has a duty to maintain the premises under the property owner’s control in a reasonably safe manner. The is especially important for areas in which children are present.  It is well known that children, especially toddlers, are curious and will often wander into areas that are not built for the play or presence of children. For instance, it is important for property owners and landowners to fence off hazardous areas including those related to waterways, electrical equipment, steep areas, and any other areas in which a child may get stuck, trapped, or otherwise injured.
Septic or lift stations for restroom sewage can be commonly be seen in many Florida communities.  It is vital that the lids to septic or lift stations are safely secured and in place.  If there is any risk that a young child can remove the lid or slip through the lid into the hole into the ground or the septic area, a child can be at significant risk for drowning.  There are a number of causes for covers to be damages, unsecured, and out of place.  When this happens, it is important for a property owner to take swift action to seal off the area, and repair or replace the lid.
Attractive Nuisance is a legal concept in which applies to situation in which a child is lawfully on property or even trespassing on the premises. If the child is injured by an area or object that is likely to attract children, a property owner or landowner can be held liable if it can be shown that the property owner or landowner knew or should have known about the attractive nuisance but failed to take action to fix the problem, secure the dangerous area, or remove the danger area / problem from the premises.

Cruise-Ship-Injuries-Blue-150x150Cruise ship companies like Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and other carriers market to and welcome children as guests on the ship for both short and long term trips.  As such, cruise ships should be constructed and maintained in a reasonable manner that under maritime law.  The cruise ship operator had a duty to remove or limit hazards and to put reasonable necessary safety measures for both children and adults.  All interior and exterior passageways should be constructed and maintained according to applicable ship, building, and safety codes.  When an adult or child is injured as a passenger on a cruise ship, the cruise ship line, company, or operator is not automatically or strictly liability. There must be a showing of fault or liability for the incident at issue. This is commonly referred to as negligence which requires the proof or showing of four elements to establish a legal case or claim:  Duty, Breach of Duty, Causation, and Damages.

It was recently reported by a number of media outlets that an eight year old girl who was a passenger on the ship – Glory – operated by Carnival Cruise Lines fell approximately 20 feet while inside the atrium area of the boat. It was reported that the medical team for the ship was soon thereafter on the scene to attend to the child. The incident took place while the ship was docked at the Port of Miami.  Since a serious injury occurred in the form of a death, there will be a full investigation by government authorities as well as an autopsy.  Concurrent or subsequent to the criminal investigation, there can also be an investigation by the family, private investigators, engineers, and, yes, a legal team hired by the family of the child.  Again, it should be noted that a cruise ship is not automatically liable for every single injury or death that occurs on a boat. Negligence or fault must be established to support a civil case or claim if one is pursued by the family of the child. You can read more about the Carnival Cruise Lines incident involving the 8 year old girl who fell at Girl as a Result of Fall at Port of Miami – Carnival Cruise Lines. 

It should be noted that cruise ship legal cases are much different than other types of injury cases like ones involving an automobile accident or a slip and fall while at a store or shopping center while on land.  The cruise line ticket can define and control time limits and court or forum choices for a legal case.  In addition, there are strict time limits by law for cruise ship / maritine cases.

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In Florida, a child should be able to ride a bike, spend time with friends, and play sports / games in a safe and nurturing environment.  Most neighborhoods in Florida are safe and filled with neighbors who are friendly, conscientious, and mindful of children in the area.  Unfortunately, at times, a child is injured in the very neighborhood in which the child resides or visits.  For some reason, some dogs have a sense of aggression or fear for children.  This could happen for a variety of reasons or no reason at all.  Because of the unpredictability of dogs and the risks to children, dog owners should use best efforts to keep a dog on a leash or otherwise confined.  When a dog is loose, there is a risk of attack to one or more children in the neighborhood.  In most of Florida’s 67 counties, there is a dog leash law that is referred in the local ordinance of many counties as “at-large dogs”.  It is important to keep a dog under control at all times.

When a dog is attacked or bitten in the State of Florida,  the law recognizes the rights of the injured child or injured adult.  Florida has adopted a Strict Liability law for dog bite and dog attack cases.  In other words, a dog owner is strictly liable for a dog bite or dog attack regardless of the prior history of the dog.  As such, even if a dog had never been aggressive in the past, a dog owner can still be liable for the injuries and related damages.  There are some exceptions to this general law or rule. For instance, if a child trespasses into the yard of neighbor with clearly posted Bad Dog or Beware of Dog signs, this may serve as a defense for the dog owner.  It should be noted that a dog owner can be held strictly liable while a property owner (who is not the dog owner) can typically only be held liable if there is a showing of negligence or fault on the part of the property owner.
One practical issue that presents itself in many dog bite cases involves the availability or the lack of availability of homeowner’s insurance that covers dog bite or dog attack personal injuries.  Unfortunately, many homeowner’s insurance policies these days exclude such coverage.   While there may be a strong legal case against the dog owner and property owner, there are a number of practical problems when there is no coverage for such incidents or injuries.