Florida Negligence 101 – Stilson v. Valley Fine Foods

Although negligence is one of the most commonly alleged claims in personal injury actions, it is also often misunderstood or mischaracterized by those who are unfamiliar with this area of the law. Many people use the words “negligence” or “negligent” in everyday conversation to convey a sense of carelessness. In the courtroom, however, the terms have a very specific meaning.

There are several components to a negligence claim, each of which must be proved in order for the person suing to successfully recover any damages caused by the alleged negligence. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently explained the basics of state negligence law in Stilson v. Valley Fine Foods.

Mr. Stilson sued Buona Vita Inc., Wal-Mart Stores, East and Valley Fine Foods, alleging that he became extremely sick and was hospitalized after eating a Five Cheese-Filled Rigatoni with Meatballs meal made and distributed by Buona Vita and sold at a Sam’s Club store owned by Wal-Mart. He claimed in particular that Buona Vita was negligent because the company knew or should have been aware that the meal had not been inspected for consumption before it was shipped to Sam’s Club.

Buona Vista later filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it, which the District Court interpreted as asserting that Stilson failed to state a claim on which the court could grant relief. The company argued that Stilson’s factual allegations were not sufficient to raise a claim for negligence and that he failed to assert that any such negligence caused his sickness.

Denying the motion, the District Court held that Stilson properly pled a viable negligence claim against Buona Vista. “The elements of a Florida negligence claim are: (1) a legal duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff; (2) a breach of that duty by the defendant; (3) an injury to the plaintiff that was legally caused by the defendant’s breach; and (4) damages as a result of the injury,” the Court explained, citing a 2011 decision by Florida’s 11th District Court of Appeals in Sorel v. Koonce.

Here, the court said Stilson claimed that Buona Vista distributed food for public consumption and that it owed a duty of care to those who ate their products to take reasonable steps to ensure that they were safe for ordinary consumption. Nevertheless, Stilson alleged that the company breached this duty in a number of ways, including by failing to notice impurities in the rigatoni and warn consumers like Stilson of them. Stilson also claimed that he was injured as a direct result of these breaches.

“These allegations are sufficient to state a negligence claim,” the court concluded.

If you were recently injured in an accident and are interested in pursuing a claim against the responsible party, it is important to seek the advice and counsel of a competent, experienced attorney. Contact the South Florida negligence lawyers at Anidjar & Levine for a free consultation today. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we represent clients throughout the region, including in Boca Raton, Pompano Beach and Coral Springs. Call us at 800-747-3733 or contact us online.

Related blog post:

Negligence and Obvious Danger in Florida Personal Injury Cases – Rodriguez v. Akal Security

Proving Gross Negligence in Florida Worker’s Compensation Cases – Villalta v. Cornn International

No Magic Words for Liability Waivers in Florida Negligence Cases, Court Says – Give Kids the World v. Sanislo