Chartwell Law’s Shannon Arsenault recently won a summary judgment motion on behalf of a hotel client. The plaintiff, a hotel guest, alleged that he slipped on a transitory foreign substance on the hotel’s lobby floor. Relying on deposition testimony of several hotel employees and video evidence of the fall, Shannon moved for summary judgment based on the lack of evidence of actual or constructive notice of the alleged substance on the floor.
The court examined the evidence in accordance with the federal summary judgment standard adopted by Florida in 2021. Under that standard, the burden of proof shifts as follows: when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof on a dispositive issue at trial, the party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate the “absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case.” If the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to provide evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue of fact as to an element necessary for the nonmoving party to prevail at trial.
Under this standard, a Florida court considering a motion for summary judgment considers competing evidence to determine whether a genuine issue of fact exists. The court in this case considered the video evidence and deposition testimony against the plaintiff’s testimony, concluded that no reasonable jury could return a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor, and granted the motion for summary judgment. Note that prior to Florida’s adoption of the federal standard, it is likely that the court would have denied the motion despite being presented with video evidence showing plaintiff’s testimony to be demonstrably false; the plaintiff’s testimony, even if false, would have created an issue of fact for the jury.