TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – In a case that involved a man getting hit in the head with a tomahawk, a divided Florida Supreme Court has ruled that another man involved in an altercation outside a Miami-Dade County bar could be held liable.
The justices, in a 4-2 ruling, sided with Dennis J. Dorsey, who suffered head injuries in 2007 during a fight in the parking lot of a neighborhood bar in Pinecrest. Dorsey had been drinking with Robert J. Reider and Russell Noordhoek before they got into an argument.
Reider later blocked Dorsey from escaping in the parking lot, and Noordhoek got a tomahawk from Reider’s truck and struck Dorsey, according to the ruling.
Dorsey filed a personal-injury case against Reider, but the 3rd District Court of Appeal found that Reider could not be held liable.
The Supreme Court overturned that decision in a ruling last Thursday.
“Reider left a dangerous tool in his unlocked truck, fully accessible to his friend Noordhoek, who obtained the tomahawk and injured Dorsey while Reider was present and blocking Dorsey’s escape,” said the majority opinion, written by Justice Jorge Labarga and joined by justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry. “Not only did Reider have constructive control over the instrumentality, he had actual control over the area — that is, ‘the premises’ — in which Dorsey was trapped and injured.”
Chief Justice Ricky Polston and Justice Charles Canady dissented, with Canady writing an opinion that said the court should not have agreed to hear the case. Justice R. Fred Lewis was recused.
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