State Politics

Florida Senate OKs lawsuit protections

TALLAHASSEE — Two Senate-passed bills would make it harder to win lawsuits against businesses for “slip-and-fall” accidents and for injuries children suffer in risky activities such as theme park or carnival rides, go-cart racing, bungee jumping and horseback riding.

Both measures that cleared the Senate on Thursday would undo Florida Supreme Court rulings.

The slip-and-fall bill (HB 689) went to Gov. Charlie Crist. The House next gets the measure (SB 2440) that would restore the ability of businesses to require parental waivers of liability for children.

Parents and guardians, though, could only be required to waive “inherent risks” that are characteristic of, or an integral part of, the activity.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, cited go-cart racing as an example. “You expect that they may run into each other, they may bump into each other, but you don’t expect the wheel to fall off,” Bennett said. “You are assuming certain risks for your child, but you are not assuming the ... hidden risks.”

He said another example of a hidden risk would be if a child got hit by a falling light fixture while at a skating rink.The slip-and-fall bill would require victims to prove that a business knew or should have known a dangerous condition had existed for a sufficient time to have fixed or removed it or that it was a foreseeable hazard.