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Florida Construction Co. Faces Lawsuit Over Worker’s Injury From Fall

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A Florida appeals court revived a lawsuit intending to hold a construction company — Marzucco Construction & Coatings Inc. — liable for injuries sustained by subcontract worker Jonathan Pratus.

Marzucco was overseeing the construction of a parking garage where Pratus was employed as an electrical subcontractor. Pratus was injured when he stepped into an uncovered drain on-site.

Pratus sued Marzucco for negligence and claimed that the duty to maintain a safe premises by way of covering the drain was not fulfilled by the company. Pratus stated that the company placed caution tape on the door on certain days, but there was not on the day of the accident.

The county judge granted Marzucco the judgment that the uncovered drain was hazardous and Pratus should have been aware of it, as he had previously visited the site several times.

The panel disagreed, finding that though the drain’s presence was evident, a factual dispute exists over whether or not the dangerous condition of the drain being uncoveredwas evident on that specific day.

The panel commented, “The only evidence before the trial court (Pratus’s deposition testimony) established that the drain was sometimes covered and sometimes uncovered. There is no evidence that Pratus knew the drain was uncovered on the day of the accident. And it would not have been unreasonable for Pratus to assume that the drain was covered since the caution tape had been removed from the door leading to the drain.”

Furthermore, the panel commented that even if the danger was open and obvious, Marzucco “still had a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition” if thepotential harm to Pratus via the uncovered drain could have been anticipated by the company.

The appeals court stated that the trial judge erroneously concluded that Marzucco was relieved of its duty of care even if Pratus was aware of the drain but failed to avoid it. The panel further commented, “Pratus’s knowledge merely created a fact issue for the jury as part of its comparative negligence determination,” which therefore allocated fault between both parties.