Lack of Evidence Establishing Causation Can Result in a Dismissal of a Negligence Case by Directed Verdict

MAY 30, 2016:

As a Miami lawyer that represents clients injured in construction accidents and work-related accidents, establishing causation by proving the precise mechanism leading to the injury is of the utmost importance.  Simply stated, just because a person is injured on a job site does not automatically raise the presumption that the company is responsible.  The obligation is on the injured party to submit evidence establishing that but for the negligence of the defendant, the incident would not have occurred.

In “Broward Executive Builders, Inc. v. Liliana Zota, as Guardian of Mercedes Zota,” the Fourth District Court of Appeal of Florida (“4th DCA”) recently reversed a jury verdict in favor of an injured worker and directed a verdict for the Defendant construction company.  In that case, the Plaintiff was hurt after falling from a second story catwalk within a home that was under construction.  At trial, the evidence established that the catwalk failed to have the required guardrails in place pursuant to the guidelines mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”).  Consequently, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the injured worker and against the construction company.

According to the 4th DCA, directed verdicts in favor of a defendant must be “granted where the evidence is of such a nature that under no view which the jury might lawfully take of it, favorable to the adverse party, could a verdict for the [plaintiff] be upheld.”  Florida law specifies that the “plaintiff must introduce evidence which affords a reasonable basis for the conclusion that it is more likely than not that the conduct of the defendant was a substantial factor in bringing about the result.”

In construction accident cases involving falls such as the one highlighted above, in order for the Plaintiff to prevail, she must prove that: (1) A fall occurred; (2) the fall occurred from a significant height; (3) the fall occurred from a certain area of the catwalk; (4) the appropriate and required guardrails would have prevented the fall; and (5) injuries were sustained from the fall.

Pursuant to “Broward Executive Builders, Inc.,” the defendant construction company cannot be found liable for negligence unless evidence shows that “the guardrails would have prevented [the Plaintiff] from falling.”  Unfortunately for the hurt worker, the evidence failed to exclude the “reasonable possibility that she fell from many equally-likely locations in the catwalk area . . . “  Therefore, since no evidence or testimony had been elicited proving where and how she fell, the 4th DCA was forced to reverse the jury verdict and effectively dismiss the case.

For Personal Injury Lawyers in Florida to prevail in lawsuits, the specific failure on the part of the defendant must be clearly linked to the resulting harm and injury sustained by the plaintiff.  Without that causal connection, dismissal is a distinct possibility.

Injured in a construction site accident?  Contact our Aventura Personal Injury Attorneys by CLICKING HERE!

Brandon Stein

Chief Executive Officer

Brandon Stein, the owner and founder of SteinLaw, is a Florida-based trial attorney who focuses on personal injury cases such as wrongful death, car accident, slip and fall, and a variety of other civil litigation areas. Being a former associate at a prominent Florida Defense Law Firm, Brandon Stein understands the strategy and tactics...[READ BIO]