It was an unbelievable fall at a Jacksonville Beach strip mall.
A 7-year-old boy plunged through a skylight on the roof, falling 14-feet to the ground. A witness said she heard the child cry and the boy’s mother and sister were also on the roof.
The child was transported by air ambulance to Shands Jacksonville and is reported to be in serious condition. The skylight was a dome made out of soft plastic and not glass and it is reported to be flexible, which likely prevented the boy from severe lacerations.
The property owner says no one is supposed to be on the roof. Our prayers go out to the little boy for a swift recovery.
Under Florida law, the first step is to understand the specific legal category the injured person occupies. Unless the mother owns the building or had some reason to be there, she could be cited for illegally trespassing. Did the landlord want them up there? Was there some good reason they might be on the roof, such as easy access and an attraction?
Under normal Florida premises liability law, the owner of a building has the responsibility to make sure that it is in good working condition for everyday use, which in this case might be shopping.
When he boy fell, he complained of back and arm pain. Some people complain (rather cynically) that the mother will likely find a personal injury attorney to represent her for financial gain. What’s interesting here is that unless this woman had a reason to be on the roof – there may be a limited application of premises liability law here.
In order for this mother to file a premises liability case, her attorney must prove that the property owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition, that a person could likely encounter the condition, whether invited or not, and then failed to correct this condition.
The duty to a trespasser is a lot less, but trespassers too are owed a duty to prevent injury, especially if they are children. Generally that applies to attractive nuisances such as swimming pools, deserted car, trampolines, or refrigerators.
I would want to know if the roof was constructed in such a way to be an attractive nuisance that might lure children or the curious to the rooftop. In that case, an argument could be made that the child was not a trespasser because he was there as a business invitee and the dangerous condition on the premises allowed him to travel up the roof and fall through the skylight.
But generally speaking, that duty does not extend to the roof. The owner’s responsibility may be only to refrain from willful or wanton injury which might include removing any concealed traps.
Under Florida law, comparative negligence may apply. That means that part of the negligence and any jury award can be apportioned among several parties. An argument could be made that the mother failed to properly supervise her child and bears some of the responsibility for his injuries. The jury then can determine that 50 percent negligence would receive half of the claim.
Only when we determine why the three people were on the roof in the first place can we determine what duties and responsibilities the premises owner owes to you.
Source reports: http://www.news4jax.com/news/22100931/detail.html