Indian Rocks Beach, FL asked in Personal Injury for Florida

Q: In Florida can you have a judge determine before trial if a defendant is in fact liable for my injuries?

Case is filed in Pasco County but my attorney bailed (no resources to continue to trial) Defense says their insured my former HOA is not responsible for a dangerously defective causing my serious personal injuries.

I will give up on claim if a Judge tells me there is no liability on defendant's part.

What is the opposite of summary judgment?

If you get a judge to determine percentages of liability can you force arbitration?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Charles M.  Baron
Charles M. Baron
  • Hollywood, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: Yes, in Florida, you can have a judge determine before trial that a defendant is liable for your injuries, but only on a plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, which is rarely granted. If it is granted, you would then have a trial on the issue of damages only. If it's not granted, you go to trial on liability and damages. For a plaintiff to prevail on summary judgment, you must show there is no genuine dispute as to the material facts giving rise to liability, so that the only issue genuinely in dispute is damages.

From the language of your questions, though, I'm guessing that the defendant has moved for summary judgment, which is asking the judge to rule that there is no genuine dispute as the material facts which lead to the conclusion that there is no liability. If so, you must timely oppose the motion with specific materials prescribed by the Fla. Rules of Civil Procedure, and if you don't, summary judgment will likely be granted to defendant simply because you did not file and serve those materials.

Regarding your your final question, the judge will NOT determine percentages of liability. You are probably thinking of defendant being X percent responsible and plaintiff being Y percent responsible, which, if comparative negligence is an issue that is brought to trial, would be a jury decision. That issue has nothing to do with whether arbitration is an option. Either there is an arbitration clause in an agreement between the parties, or there isn't. If there isn't, the only way you can get a case arbitrated is for both sides to agree to do that.

Terrence H Thorgaard agrees with this answer

Christopher David Russo
Christopher David Russo
  • Lakeland, FL
  • Licensed in Florida

A: Summary judgments on liability are not usually granted because the issue of comparative fault is typically a question of fact for the jury to decide. To get a summary judgment on liability for negligence, you would need to establish that the HOA's negligence was the SOLE cause of injury. From your question, it sounds like your claim is for premises liability against an HOA. The HOA most likely defended the lawsuit by claiming that you were at fault or partly at fault for your own injury. That is precisely the situation that you are unlikely to get a summary judgment on.

Now, with that being said, the insurance company for the HOA has likely made you an offer to settle. The question in your case is not really whether the HOA is responsible or not because that issue could go either way if you go to trial. Instead, the real question is how much are going to get if you win at trial. This is where it gets dicey because no one knows what a jury is going to do with any given case. You should evaluate any settlement offer that you have received against your likelihood of beating that number at trial.

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