Injuries resulting from dangerous conditions on commercial or personal property amount to a significant number of cases in the personal injury arena. Often times, these injuries are a result of a defective condition on the property that was either known by the owner or should have been noticed by the person in control of the real estate. It is when these conditions go unnoticed over a period of time that injuries can result.
Unnoticed property safety hazards give personal injury attorneys difficulty in prosecuting claims for their clients. More often than not, the person in charge of the property will correct the dangerous condition thereby making the area safe. Many clients question why that repair does not come into court for the jury's consideration. To the layman, it would seem that a subsequent repair of the dangerous condition would go to proving negligence. In many instances, it would.
However, Florida has adopted portions of the Federal Evidence Code that exclude this type of evidence for public policy reasons. If the subsequent repair becomes admissible evidence, landowners would be less likely to repair a dangerous condition for fear that it would be used against them in any subsequent litigation. It is thought that repairing the dangerous condition outweighs the evidentiary implication that the owner knew the condition was dangerous prior to the repair. Therefore, in the state of Florida and in most instances, a subsequent remedial repair is inadmissible to show fault on the part of the landowner.
There are exceptions to this rule:
- The more routine exception is when the landowner disavows ownership of the property that caused injury and then fixes it.
- Feasibility is another exception. If the landowner claims it is infeasible to fix the dangerous condition and subsequently does so, the fact that it was fixed by the landowner may become evidence in trial. However, as a general rule, subsequent remedial repairs are inadmissible in court to show negligence.