Is a photograph alone enough to prove that a property owner or landowner was negligent for not properly maintaining their property? Apparently not. In a recent Florida court case, an individual sued the City of Miami when she tripped and fell over a raised brick paver while she was walking on a city-owned, brick-paved sidewalk.
The court determined that the individual suing the City had to prove that the City either had actual knowledge of the raised brick in the sidewalk or that the City had constructive knowledge of the raised brick in the sidewalk, which could have prevented her slip and fall. To prove constructive knowledge, the individual had to present evidence that the raised brick had existed long enough that the City should have been aware of it.
In this case, the individual that fell had no evidence that the City had actual knowledge. Typically, this is proven by having evidence of prior complaints or prior accidents involving the raised brick.
Regarding constructive knowledge, the only evidence that the individual had was a photograph she took immediately following her fall. She argued to the court that the photograph by itself was sufficient evidence to establish that the raised brick had existed for a significant period of time. However, the court disagreed and found that the photograph alone was not sufficient to establish that the City should have been aware of the problem. The court indicated that the individual needed to bring forth evidence to establish how much time the brick was in that dangerous position. Typically, this would be accomplished by an expert witness.
The Florida Supreme Court has previously held that if a photograph has some type of distinguishing characteristic or feature that clearly indicates that the defect has existed for a considerable period of time, the photograph by itself would be sufficient evidence. Here, the appellate court apparently felt that the photograph did not contain any of these specific characteristics or features. The court held that the photograph showed a raised brick and nothing more.
It can be very difficult to prove liability in slip or trip and fall cases in Florida. If you, a friend or a loved one are unfortunately injured as a result of a slip and fall accident or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Wieland, Hilado & DeLattre, P.A. at (407) 841-7699. For additional resources, keep checking our blog, LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more helpful hints and to always be informed about best practices in law.