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Slip and Fall Bill Slides Through Debate in the House

Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, defended his slip and fall legislation today on the House floor.

When asked by Rep. Yolly Roberson, D-Miami, what has changed since 2002 when Florida enacted the slip and fall law that Aubuchon hopes to replace, he said, "We have found our national retailers in the state of Florida have slip and fall cases which have cost twice as much as the national average."

Aubuchon said, The point of the bill is to lower slip and fall costs in the state of Florida and to level the playing field with other states.

He also took questions from Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, and Rep. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, on his proposed legislation which moves the burden of proof to the plaintiffs in slip and fall cases. The bill emerged from committee last week.

Thurston asked Aubuchon questions about who would be liable if an uninsured person slipped and fell in a retail store.

Gibson asked Aubuchon a number of questions about record keeping under his bill. How much does it cost a business to keep a form or a piece of notebook paper? How much does it cost a business to write down something and keep it for 30 days?

If that was all we were requiring to keep record for a slip in a store, the cost would be negligible, Aubuchon said. The costs in keeping records have become prohibitive for small businesses.

Just as he had in the House Criminal and Civil Justice Policy Council meeting, Rep. Adam Fetterman, D-Port St. Lucie, asked Aubuchon about preserving evidence. Aubuchon said that retailers have the obligation under current law to preserve evidence.

Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, said, "This bill makes all of us vulnerable and is not good public policy."

Aubuchon dismissed Schwartz's comments by saying that 35 other states have similiar measures to what he is proposing.

With the bill now having been read a third time, the House votes on the measure Thursday.

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