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Third District Court of Appeal affirms summary judgment in favor of hospital in visitor slip and fall case

On February 1, 2017, in Encarnacion v. Lifemark Hospitals of Florida, No. 3D15-0834, the 3rd DCA affirmed a summary judgment in favor of the defendant hospital and a maintenance company under contract with the hospital. The plaintiff in the case, who was visiting a patient, had slipped in a hospital corridor on an unknown liquid. The 4th DCA determined that the hospital owed the plaintiff, a business invitee, a duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain the premises in a safe condition. However, the Court also found that there there was no evidence in the record suggesting that the condition was known to the hospital. The Court noted that under Fla. Stat. 768.0755, proof that the hospital had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it could be provided by circumstantial evidence showing that either (1) the dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that the hospital should have known of the condition, or (2) the condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable. However, the evidence suggested that the liquid had been deposited on the floor at about the time of the fall (the plaintiff saw a worker with a spray bottle cleaning stretchers) or at some unknown time before the incident, thus providing no basis to satisfy the conditions of Fla. Stat. 768.0755. With regard to the maintenance company, the Court concluded that the company's potential liability extended only so far as its contractually assumed obligations, and that there was no contractual obligation to constantly patrol or supervise the area where the incident occurred.