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PLAINTIFFS' Premises liability - Dangerous sliding glass door - Failure to install safety glass - Glass shatters - Transection of sciatic nerve to minor plaintiff - Liability only.

Volusia County

This action was bifurcated, over objections of plaintiff’s counsel and was tried on the issue of liability only. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant negligently failed to replace a sliding glass door that was broken and not made of safety glass. As a result, the plaintiffs claimed the minor plaintiff, an 11-year-old girl at the time, fell against the door. As a result of the fall, the door shattered and the girl sustained a complete transection of the sciatic nerve. The defendants argued that the accident was caused due to the minor plaintiff’s brother pushing her into the door.

The minor plaintiff and her family were renting a home owned by the defendant in New Smyrna Beach. The house included an in- ground pool and deck which was separated from the house by a sliding glass door. The minor plaintiff testified that she got out of the pool and was drying herself off, when she lost her balance and fell against the glass door, causing the door to shatter. The plaintiffs alleged that there was a "BB"-sized hole in the door, which the defendants had covered with a small, round "sun catcher." The plaintiffs’ glass expert testified that the glass doors were not made of safety glass. The court determined that the doors violated the Florida Building Code as a matter of law. Evidence showed that the defendant’s house had been remodeled approximately six months before it was rented to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs’ glass expert also testified that the small hole in the glass caused a 70% reduction in strength.

The defendants admitted that there was a small chip or hole in the glass door. They denied placing the sun catcher in a position to conceal the defect. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff father told a repairman, several days after the accident, that the minor plaintiff was pushed into the door by her younger brother. The statement was admissible as an "admission against interest" exception to the hearsay rule. The plaintiff father denied making the statement. The plaintiffs testified that they observed the accident and that the minor plaintiff was not pushed.

The jury found the defendant ________% negligent. A trial on damages is pending.

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