May 6, 2024

Kelley Kronenberg Secures Summary Judgment On Reconsideration Based on Lack of Proximate Cause

Kelley Kronenberg Partner, Aaron Neifeld, from the firm’s General Liability and Transportation Division, successfully obtained a Summary Judgment on behalf of our client in this negligent security action. The Honorable Vivianne Del Rio of Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit Court in and for Miami-Dade County presided over the proceedings. 

The case stemmed from an incident where a shopping mall experienced a smoke alarm activation, causing unexpected panic among its customers. This panic extended into one of the mall’s tenant stores, where the plaintiff was shopping. Amidst the chaos, the plaintiff alleged she was injured as she attempted to evacuate the store. Aaron represented the defendant shopping mall. 

The plaintiff brought a multi-pronged claim of negligence, contending that the mall failed to prevent third-party actions leading to the alarm activation, failed to maintain crowd control, and even argued the alarm itself was defective. Aaron filed a Motion for Summary Judgment focused on several key points, including the lack of proximate cause, the presence of intervening/superseding causes, and the limited control over the tenant store.  

In assessing the case, the Court considered the concept of proximate cause, which necessitates both causation-in-fact and legal causation. While the plaintiff provided evidence for the former, she fell short in establishing the latter. The Court found that the alleged negligent act did not reasonably lead to the plaintiff’s injuries, especially given the brief time interval between the alarm activation and the incident. 

Initially, the Court denied the Motion for Summary Judgment. Undeterred, Aaron filed a Motion for Reconsideration based on plaintiff having improperly raised new allegations in response to the Motion as well as newly enacted case law from Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal. Following additional arguments and drawing upon relevant legal precedent, including the Third District Court of Appeal’s decision in Westchester Exxon v. Valdes, the Court ruled in favor of our client, highlighting the impracticality of expecting the defendant to anticipate and prevent every potential accident arising from a smoke alarm activation. 

By successfully securing this Summary Judgment, we not only shielded our client from potential liabilities but also effectively mitigated the exposure estimated by the plaintiff to be approximately $600,000.00. 

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