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Florida Fourth DCA reverses judgment for plaintiff in premises liability case, finding photographs of accident scene provided insufficient evidence that a dangerous condition existed for sufficient time to establish constructive notice by the defendant

On December 15, 2021, in Speedway, Inc. v. Cevallos, No. 4D20-1120, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed a final judgment in favor of the plaintiff in a premises liability slip and fall case, finding that the plaintiff failed to offer evidence of a dangerous condition at trial, or that any condition existed for sufficient period to establish constructive notice of it. The plaintiff alleged that she had slipped on gas residue at the defendant’s gas station that had built up over time, relying solely on photos of the concrete to establish the existence of buildup. The Fourth DCA stated that where photos are ambiguous as to the condition and duration of the condition revealed, they do not support an inference of constructive notice, citing Hannewacker v. City of Jacksonville Beach, 419 So. 2d 308, 311–12 (Fla. 1982). In addition, the Fourth DCA concluded that the plaintiff had failed to make a sufficient showing that the defendant was negligent in training its employees on maintenance of the area because the plaintiff was in essence asking the jury to make an inference from circumstantial evidence that Speedway deliberately refrained from implementing a single policy regarding maintenance of the concrete at the fuel pumps and guidance to it, and then build a further inference upon it, that the lack of a policy resulted in unreasonably slippery concrete due to the alleged gas residue buildup. The Fourth DCA rejected this methodology, stating that “[w]here an inference is based upon circumstantial evidence in a civil case, it must be the only reasonable inference that can be formed from that evidence for the plaintiff to build further inferences upon it,” quoting from Broward Exec. Builders, Inc. v. Zota, 192 So. 3d 534, 537 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).

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