Florida Law Will Help Shield Grocery Stores

TALLAHASSEE - Florida's Gov. Jeb Bush last week signed into law a bill that will make it harder for customers to sue grocery stores over injuries from powered shopping carts, the Lakeland Ledger reports.

The bill was pushed by a legislator and attorney who is currently defending Publix in a Charlotte County lawsuit, according to the newspaper.

Rep. Jeff Kottkamp, R-Cape Coral, who also represents part of Charlotte County, said the new law won't affect the pending litigation, but he said that he was worried that additional lawsuits were coming and would lead to grocery stores pulling out the powered shopping carts.

"It opened my eyes to a really bad trend," said Kottkamp, who works with the Ft. Myers law firm of Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt. "Stores would be forced to take these out and then the elderly and handicapped won't be able to shop independently."

Florida is unique among most states in that it holds the owners of automobiles, golf carts, and airplanes liable for injuries resulting from others who drive or pilot so-called "dangerous instrumentalities," according to the newspaper.

The bill signed by Bush spells out that a shopping cart is not dangerous and that a grocery store can be sued only if there is proof of negligence.

The legislation is one of two measures passed this year by Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature that are aimed at curbing lawsuits against grocery stores. Another bill (SB 1946) that is awaiting Bush's signature would overturn a portion of a state Supreme Court ruling stemming from a case against Publix where a customer sued after slipping on part of a banana.
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