The doctrine of avoidable consequences is an affirmative defense that can be used in certain property damage lawsuits. This is a defense that does not go to liability, but it goes to damages. This doctrine of avoidable consequences defense holds that a plaintiff cannot recover damages caused by a defendant that the plaintiff could have reasonably avoided. See Media Holdings, LLC v. Orange County, Florida, 43 Fla.L.Weekly D237c (Fla. 5th DCA 2018). Stated differently, if the plaintiff could have reasonably avoided the consequences of the damages caused by the defendant then the plaintiff cannot recover those damages. However, the defendant needs to prove this defense — the burden is on the defendant to establish this defense (ideally through expert testimony).
For example, in Media Holdings, a party that was putting on a trade show at a convention center caused the fire sprinkler system to be set off causing substantial water damage. The owner of the convention center sued the party. The party argued the doctrine of avoidable consequences, i.e., that the convention center’s damages were caused by or exacerbated by its failure to shut down the sprinkler system as soon as reasonably possible; had the convention center done so, its damages would be much different. This defense was a question of fact. Remember, it is not a defense as to liability because the party did cause the sprinkler system to be set off. Rather, it went directly to the amount of damages the plaintiff was seeking.
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