Florida Complicated Car Accident Case
Car accidents are not always cut and dry. Rather, sometimes finding blame for why an accident was caused can be painfully difficult. Brining a case to court doesn’t automatically help find blame, as you will see in the case Sewell v. Racetrac Petroleum, Inc. This case, from December 2017, shows just how long a Florida complicated car accident case can take, as well as how confusing it can become! Here’s what happened.
In 2007 (10 years later and the case is still in court!) Crystal Sewell was driving her vehicle past a Racetrac gas station. At first, she said she was speeding because she was late for work (down the line, she changed her testimony and said she could not remember the details of her speed or being late for work). While driving, a “phantom vehicle” quickly exited the gas station without stopping and entered into the lane where Ms. Sewell was traveling. The car was able to enter her lane through an opening in the median. As a result, Ms. Sewell lost control of her vehicle and crashed into a palm tree. She then sued the gas station for damages, citing that they were responsible for the unsafe opening in the median that the “phantom vehicle” used.
The details of this case begin to get very complicated, since the rulings have been appealed by Ms. Sewell. Here’s what a Florida complicated car accident case looks like. To begin, the court did not agree that Racetrac was responsible for the accident because of the opening in the median. Although they lobbied the government to make this change for their business, the modification cannot be the reason for blame. To begin, there are a few circumstances in order to hold a business responsible for negligence. First, the injured party must be an invitee. Ms. Sewell was not a customer of Racetrac. Rather, she was on the road, driving three lanes away from the business. Secondly, the opening in the median was on the county’s road, not Racetrac’s property. Rather, Racetrac had no control over the median opening. So, Racetrac cannot be held responsible under general premises liability law.
Furthermore, although Racetrac petitioned the government for the modification in the median, they are not responsible for the dangerous update. The court ruled that a business that petitions the government for a modification like this outside of its property has no legal duty to guard against the government making a decision that will create an allegedly unreasonably dangerous road condition.
Ms. Sewell appealed several orders of the trial court. Although parts of her case (as described above) were denied, the majority allowed her to go forward, albeit with a different theory.
The second theory argues that Racetrac did not property maintain signs and pavement markings on its property that would protect customers and the general public from driving dangerously. This theory alleges that Racetrac knew, or should have known, that the failure to maintain the signs and pavement markings presented a real danger. An owner CAN be liable for its actions on its own property that cause a vehicle to exit in a manner that the owner knew or should have known creates an unreasonable danger to vehicles on the road.
As of now, this Florida complicated car accident case is still in court and the final ruling is to be determined.
If you think you have a Florida complicated car accident case and not sure if you have a chance in court, contact SteinLaw to find out more information about how an attorney can help you.