While auto accidents are often the result of driver negligence, there may be other factors involved as well. For instance, an accident may be the result of a poorly maintained road or a hazard created by some other form of third-party negligence. Such scenarios may enable an injured driver to seek compensation under what is known as a premises liability claim.

Florida Road Contractor Faces Trial Over Loose Manhole Cover

A recent decision from the Florida Third District Court of Appeals, Del Rio v. Russell Engineering, Inc., provides a useful illustration. In this case, the plaintiff was driving his vehicle down a street in Miami-Dade County when, according to him, he “struck a protruding manhole cover.” That same day, the defendant was performing road work in the area as a contractor for the Florida Department of Transportation.

The plaintiff subsequently sued the defendant for negligence, alleging it had failed to properly secure the manhole cover, thus causing the plaintiff’s accident. The defense moved for summary judgment. This is a common motion in personal injury cases. The party moving for summary judgment basically argues that if you apply the law to the undisputed facts of the case, the other side cannot win. Put another way, summary judgment means there is no need for a jury to resolve any factual disputes.

Here, the defendant argued–and the trial court agreed–that the plaintiff did not put forth sufficient evidence to create a disputed issue of fact on whether the manhole cover that struck his car was actually where he said it was. The plaintiff testified on several occasions that he encountered the manhole cover at a specific location. But an employee of the defendant testified there was no manhole cover at that location. The defense also produced what it said were photographs of the street location of the accident, which did not show any manhole covers that “resembled” the ones described by the plaintiff.

While the trial court was satisfied this was sufficient to grant the defense summary judgment, the Court of Appeals disagreed. It pointed to the plaintiff’s own testimony about the location or the manhole cover. The trial judge gave no weight to this testimony, which the Third District said was a legal error. A “reasonable jury” considering the conflicting evidence could determine the plaintiff was correct. And while the defense did offer photographic evidence, so did the plaintiff, and the Court of Appeals’ concluded that neither side’s photographs conclusively established where or how the manhole cover appeared on the day of the accident itself. The plaintiff was therefore allowed to take his case to trial.

Speak with a Tampa Personal Injury Attorney Today

Even seemingly simple issues like the location of a manhole cover can lead to complex litigation in the context of a personal injury claim. That is why if you have been injured in a similar incident it is best to work with a qualified Tampa auto accident lawyer. Contact Trombley & Hanes today to schedule an initial consultation with a member of our personal injury team.