Be Reasonable! How the Reasonable Person Standard Works

Have you ever tried to reason with an unreasonable person? It’s frustrating! But you have to imagine that the other person thinks you’re the unreasonable one, so how do you come to a solution for your disagreement? The answer is, you usually don’t.

When a dispute gets to the point where you must use your constitutional right to sue in court, there are certain things that must be present in order to file a suit that stands a chance of being successful. The first is, did the person or people who caused you harm have a responsibility or “duty of care” to provide a safe environment and not hurt you? If you’re walking down the sidewalk and a brick from a building falls on your head you can’t sue the person who was sitting on a chair nearby drinking coffee. The building owner is probably the logical target for your lawsuit.

The second element that is essential is that the person you wish to sue did not exercise reasonable care or judgement, thus causing the incident to occur. There’s that word reasonable again.

The definition of reasonable is: a: being in accordance with reason, a reasonable theory. b: not extreme or excessive. c: moderate, fair.

Florida Premise NegligenceThe third essential element is “proximate cause” which means that the party you want to sue likely caused or contributed to the incident occurring, either by something they did or something they did not do. Lastly, there must be damages. These damages may be physical, mental, psychological, financial, or some other kind. But proving damages is important and sometimes difficult.

In law, especially in the area of negligence, the “reasonable person” doctrine has been used for many years to define what society will or won’t condone as acceptable behavior so that harm is not done to others. For example, if your business involves the installation of underground pipes, you wouldn’t dig a deep hole and leave it open overnight with no caution signs or barriers to warn people. If you did that then you failed to act on your duty to protect the public. On the other hand, if you were diligent about blocking the hole and used lighted signs and took every reasonable precaution possible, but a person willfully ignored the safety measures, climbed over a barrier, and he fell in and was hurt, the court would likely see that the victim was not using reasonable judgement.

When a property owner does not take reasonable steps to make sure there are no hazardous conditions, it is often referred to as “premise negligence” and if someone is hurt there may be grounds for a lawsuit. Florida uses the reasonable person concept when dealing with personal injury cases and other lawsuits involving physical, financial, or property damages. It’s important to understand that something you find to be perfectly reasonable may not be seen that way in court, and that’s why some people emerge victorious from the courthouse and some don’t. Try to wrap your ahead around the fact that no system is perfect, but ours is pretty good.

What happens if both parties in a lawsuit are unreasonable? Florida also uses a principle known as “comparative negligence” which is a way to assign blame based on the level of negligence by each party. We’ll get into that in our next blog post. Until then, be reasonable!

If you think you might have a reason to sue someone who caused you some type of damages or physical harm, we’re here to help you understand your rights under the law. Call us at (954) 356-0006 and we’ll be happy to listen to your story and talk about the best course of action.

Liability for Damages and/or Injuries Involving an Alcohol-Impaired Person

We live in a world where commercials on TV portray a happy, friend-filled lifestyle for people who drink a particular brand of beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverage. Then at the end of the commercial, the announcer reminds us to “please drink responsibly.”

Now it would be nice if everyone listened to the announcer, but in fact that does not always happen. According to in 2013 there were 10,076 persons killed in drunk-driving crashes, which is one every 52 minutes.

Sometimes people choose to purchase alcohol on their own and drink alone. Other times people go to parties and drink with friends. Often, people go to bars or restaurants and are served drinks by a bartender or server. It’s this scenario where the responsibility and liability for the actions of impaired persons is sometimes murky.

A case in France recently gained world-wide attention when a man died after being served 56 shots of alcohol, and the bartender was found guilty of manslaughter. See Time Magazine story here: TIME

Read more “Liability for Damages and/or Injuries Involving an Alcohol-Impaired Person”

Wrongful Death Suit Filed by Sister of Everglades Crash Victim

Last month, our posting “Plane Crash in South Florida Everglades Claims Family” described the tragic story of a South Florida family and their friend who died when their plane crashed in the Everglades. On Friday, October 16, the Sun Sentinel reported that Nanci Hirschorn is bringing a wrongful death suit against the Fort Lauderdale aviation company who serviced the plane.

Earlier in October, the Miami Herald reported that the pilot and owner of the Piper aircraft, Bruce Barber, radioed that the engine had caught fire and that there was smoke in the cockpit. Barber declined advice of air traffic control who told Barber to land in Pahokee, as the smoke was apparently dissipating. However, Barber later radioed that the plane was on fire, and disappeared from radar at about 3,000 feet.


Hirschorn, sister of one of the passengers of the plane, Phillip Marsh, has filed suit against Schmidt Aviation Inc., claiming that the company failed to maintain a cracked valve, which caused the engine to catch fire. The valve cracked previously on three occasions.

$1.5 million Awarded in Lawsuit Against South Florida Contractor

A Palm Beach County parks worker was awarded $1.5 million from Master Contractors after an incident six years ago when a picnic pavilion roof fell on her. Mary Washington of Delray Beach was cleaning the pavilion at Caloosa Park in Boynton Beach when the ceiling collapsed, causing the worker injuries to her back, rendering her unable to continue as a maintenance worker.

According to the Palm Beach Post, testimony revealed that the pavilion was not properly inspected because the contractor did not get all of the required permits. The trial lasted about two weeks and the jury took about an hour and a half to render a verdict for Washington. She was awarded for lost wages and medical expenses, as well as $250,000 for pain and suffering.


The jury also determined that the county was 20 percent at fault for the incident. However, the county will not have to pay damages to Washington since they were not named in the lawsuit.

Incidents such as these are quite disturbing, considering that so many children visit these parks every year. Palm Beach County has over 50 parks. According to Safe Kids USA, three out of four playground accidents occur in public parks, with 150,000 children visiting the emergency room every year for injuries involving playground equipment. With these dangers already in mind, visitors should not have to worry about structural failures in the parks as well. Our counties and the companies which they hire to construct or oversee our parks must do so in a responsible manner, following all safety laws and regulations.

Worker Severely Injured in Miami Gas Station Explosion

A worker was injured on Tuesday morning from an explosion when he and other workers were cleaning and dismantling gas tanks at a convenience store in Miami, Florida.

The explosion occurred at the Quik Stop Market at 350 NW 79th St. The man was taken to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. According to the Sun Sentinel, a spokesperson for the Miami Fire Rescue said that the accident severed the man’s leg just below the knee. It was brought to the hospital to be reattached; however, there is no word yet on the man’s condition.


The man and another worker were cleaning and dismantling old tanks which were dug up from underground. While cutting through a tank, a spark flew from the circular saw and ignited the gas fumes. The end of a tank then blew off, severing the man’s leg. Thankfully, neither the other worker nor anyone else was injured.

Officials are continuing to investigate the incident. Crews found many empty beer bottles in the tank and believe that there was gas inside the bottles.

Workers should always follow safety protocols and take precautionary measures when performing tasks that involve high risk elements such as gasoline tanks and flammable objects. At the same time, employers should always ensure that effective training of proper techniques is being done to promote the well-being and safety of their workers.