A woman who was severely injured after she was accidentally run over in a dark South Florida apartment complex parking lot obtained a $1 million premises liability settlement without having to file a lawsuit.
Laura Canaveral, who was 19 when the accident occurred in 2017, was taking the garbage out after work and had arranged to have her boyfriend pick her up at the dumpsters near her unit at the Westview Condominium Association complex in Pembroke Pines, just south of Fort Lauderdale.
Her boyfriend didn’t see her by the dumpsters, which were awkwardly positioned on a bend in the parking lot. The vehicle struck Ms. Canaveral as she was rounding a corner because the area near the dumpsters was “almost pitch black,” a lawyer handling the case told Law.com.
The accident left Ms. Canaveral with a multitude of physical and emotional injuries, including broken pelvis and ankle, cognitive deficits, memory problems, post-traumatic anxiety and depression, Law.com reported, citing her lawyers.
Reports say Ms. Canaveral was unresponsive and bleeding from the head after the accident but was revived after she was intubated. The police treated the accident as a homicide and started a homicide report, thinking she would not survive, lawyers told Law.com.
Ms. Canaveral’s lawyer said that the area of the apartment complex where the accident happened had inadequate lighting – a common complaint underlying many premises liability lawsuits.
“They [management] created a dangerous situation. You can imagine if someone just wanted to take something to the trash, you could trip on something or you could get mugged in the dark. There’s a lot of reasons to have adequate lighting,” Ms. Canaveral’s lawyer told Law.com.
The apartment complex is made up of several townhome units situated on multiple lots. The unit and lot where Ms. Canaveral was injured was the only one that allegedly had inadequate lighting. An investigation also found that the doorless dumpster enclosure was not up to safety code.
The case was complicated after the police department handling the case lost all of the photos and information related to the accident, according to Law.com. The “major mishap” threw an even heavier burden of proof onto the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Moreover, Florida law also mandates that all parties pay damages based on their degree of negligence – a comparative negligence rule known as the “Fabre” doctrine. Under the rule, Ms. Canaveral’s boyfriend could have been found liable for part of the damages, even if Ms. Canaveral did not name him as a defendant in the case.
“It was not an easy case to go to a jury trial with and say, ‘It’s all the fault of this condo association in the dark that didn’t have a light there,’” Ms. Canaveral’s attorney said.
Both parties recognized the challenges they faced in the case and knew it was in their best interests to settle the matter pre-litigation, according to Law.com.
Premises liability law
Premises Liability is the responsibility a land or property owner has for accidents, injury or other incidents that occur on his real property. Real property may include buildings, machinery, wells, dams, pools, mines, canals, curbs and roads, among others. A property owner may also be liable for injuries that occur on his property as a result of conditions like snow and ice, wet floors, concealed holes, insufficient lighting, improperly secured mats or other hazards. Premises liability also applies to apartment complexes, sidewalks, road construction areas, elevators, escalators, playgrounds and amusement parks.
Negligent security is a related area of law, normally involving shootings, fights, stabbings, or other physical violence (including sexual assault) where severe injury or death occurs due to the establishment owner’s failure to take reasonable safety measures. When this occurs, the establishment owner, as well as those contractors charged with security, may be held responsible for the injuries suffered by individuals or groups of individuals on the premises.