Florida Appellate Court Allows Injured Car Accident Victim to Proceed with Lawsuit Against Gas Station

Florida car accidents are often caused by poor choices made by other drivers or bad weather conditions. Occasionally, they are caused by hazards created by construction zones or the design of a roadway. The Third District Court of Appeal recently issued an opinion in a negligence action filed against a gas station. The plaintiff alleged a cut across a median requested and promoted by the gas station caused the errant car to strike the plaintiff’s car, causing her bodily injuries.  The claims made by the injured woman against the gas station were dismissed by the trial court, which was affirmed in part and reversed in part by the Court of Appeal.

The car accident happened on a four-lane road with two lanes of traffic on each side of a concrete median. The plaintiff stated another car pulled out of the gas station, went across the cut in the median, and joined the lane of traffic she was occupying. The injured woman claimed the car from the gas station caused her to lose control of her car and hit a palm tree. She did not allege any obstruction in her view.

The gas station purchased the property near the accident after making a deal with the city several decades ago. The gas station petitioned for a cut in the median so that traffic could enter and exit from both eastbound and westbound lanes. During the application process, the gas station submitted a traffic study. The plaintiff alleged that this was done improperly and that the gas station did not make necessary adjustments to their signage to deal with the foreseeable dangers to the public.

The trial court dismissed the case, reasoning the gas station did not owe a duty to the injured woman as a general member of the public. A person or entity is only liable for the damages suffered by another party if they or it were under a duty created by law to conduct themselves in a certain way. If someone’s conduct is of a nature that causes a “foreseeable zone of risk,” a legal duty is created for the person or entity to make sure the particular conduct is handled reasonably.

The appellate court pointed out that decisions to improve roadways will always have competing interests. Some may want certain traffic control equipment that will speed up and help manage the flow of traffic. Others in the neighborhood may want the opposite, preferring methods that will slow or divert traffic. The court cited case law that recognizes the balancing of these interests as judgmental, planning-level decisions. The court determined the gas station only entered the planning process and had every right to pursue its own interest. The court found there was no relationship with the plaintiff that would create a duty between the two. This part of the motion dismissing the injured person’s action was affirmed.

However, the appellate court did agree the gas station has an obligation under state law to set out signs and pavement markings to protect the general public and its customers from any dangers stemming from cars entering and exiting the property. A previous Florida appellate decision held a property owner liable for the negligent design of its parking lot and the location of a stop sign. The court felt this theory of negligence was viable, and it was an error for the trial court to dismiss this part of the complaint. This part of the decision was reversed and remanded to the trial court, allowing the injured party to pursue this theory of negligence against the gas station.

The Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston have the combined experience you need to help you with your personal injury claim. For a free, confidential consultation, call today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.

More Blog Posts:

Florida District Appellate Court Reviews Future Medical Expenses in Multi-Car Accident Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, November 28, 2016

Federal Circuit Court of Appeal Declines to Find Equitable Tolling in Slip and Fall Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 21, 2016

Florida Court of Appeal Allows Injured Motorist to Pursue Additional PIP Payments to Medical Providers, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, May 18, 2017