What You Need To Know Before Suing A Florida Assisted Living Facility
Many elderly Florida residents elect to live in assisted living facilities (ALFs). These facilities are not as restrictive as nursing homes yet allow residents to access personal care and nursing services designed to meet their specific needs. These facilities also need to follow a number of state laws and guidelines, including the Florida Assisted Living Facilities Act (ALFA).
The ALFA includes a “resident bill of rights.” In theory, this provides important legal protections for residents who may become the victims of abuse or neglect. But in practice, the law also contains a number of procedural roadblocks that may bar potential recovery.
Florida Appeals Court: ALFA Covers All Negligence Claims, Not Just Professional Negligence
A recent decision from the Florida First District Court of Appeal, Cohen v. Autumn Village, Inc., illustrates what we are talking about. The plaintiff in this case resides in an ALF owned by the defendant. In 2017, one of the defendant’s employees had placed a tray of food in front of the door of another resident. But the cup on the tray spilled and created a puddle in the hallway. The plaintiff slipped on this puddle while walking down the hall sometime later and sustained injuries.
While slip and fall cases are quite common in personal injury law, the issue here was whether the plaintiff also needed to comply with special provisions of the ALFA. Specifically, the ALFA requires the plaintiff to give advance, pre-suit notice of the defendant. This is not required in ordinary slip and fall cases. Additionally, while the statute of limitations is typically 4 years for a personal injury lawsuit, in claims under the ALFA that time is cut in half to just 2 years.
Here, the defendant argued the ALFA barred the plaintiff’s lawsuit because she did not comply with either of these requirements. That is, she did not give pre-suit notice, and her lawsuit was filed outside the 2-year statute of limitations. (It was filed within the 4-year limitations period for personal injury cases.)
A trial judge agreed with the defendant that the plaintiff’s failure to comply with the ALFA was fatal to her case and granted a defense motion to dismiss. On appeal, the First District affirmed. The appellate court noted that the ALFA provides an “exclusive remedy” to all personal injury claims arising out of the “negligence” of an assisted living facility.
The plaintiff attempted to distinguish her case by arguing the ALFA was only meant to cover claims arising from professional negligence–such as medical malpractice–and not an ordinary “slip and fall” claim such as hers. The First District disagreed. It said the “plain and unambiguous language” of the ALFA covered all types of negligence.
Speak with a Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you have been injured due to the negligence of any third party, it is crucial that you seek out legal advice from a qualified Boca Raton slip and fall accident lawyer who can advise you of your rights. Contact the Leifer Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our personal injury team.