WJHG is reporting on an accident that occurred on Thursday, March 8th at the Chateau Hotel on Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach. 27-year-old James McCollum fell from one of the hotel's second-floor balconies. A family member reported that he had multiple injuries and was taken to the Bay Medical Center's intensive care unit. McCollum is employed at the hotel as a maintenance repair person. The majority of the facts remain in dispute, and local police report that they are receiving conflicting stories about the accident.
Although we cannot comment on this specific case, our Panama City personal injury attorney is experienced in handling property-related injury litigation. Many cases of "slip and fall" or other property-related injuries fall into the category of premises liability claims. These claims can involve unsafe conditions that are temporary, such as an unmarked wet floor, or more permanent conditions, such as a poorly-constructed stairway or balcony. Unlike many other injury arenas, the responsible party's fault in premises liability cases is often passive, involving a failure to maintain safe conditions, rather than active wrongdoing, such as that involved in a car crash.
A key factor in premises-related claims is the defendant's level of control over the property. Ownership alone does not necessarily translate into legal responsibility for an unsafe condition. The court will look instead at who has the right to maintain control over the property and the condition that led to the injury. In some cases, this will be a tenant who has leased the property, such as a grocery store that over-waxed a floor, leading to a slip and fall. There are circumstances in which the court will deem both a landowner and a lessee to have had control, leading to both parties being concurrently liable for a property-related injury.
Another key issue in premises liability cases is the status of the injured victim. The degree of duty owed varies depending on whether the injured party is an invited business guest, a licensee, or a trespasser. The greatest degree of responsibility, and thus the highest potential liability, is to an invited guest such as a customer. In contrast, no duty is owed to an undiscovered trespasser. However, duties can extend to include a known trespasser, such as someone who regularly cuts across a property. The middle ground of responsibility involves licensees, a category that includes social guests. Special duties can apply to children, including those related to "attractive nuisances," such as an unfenced swimming pool or unguarded trampoline.
In Florida, personal injury claims, including Panama City premises liability claims, are subject to a four-year statute of limitations. Filing in a timely manner can help to preserve evidence, so contacting a skilled Panama City injury lawyer as soon as possible always helps a victim in their effort to receive compensation for their injuries. We encourage any resident who has been the victim of a dangerous property condition in Panama City to contact our team for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.