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Can Florida Homeowners Be Held Responsible for a Guest’s Injuries?

As a general rule, Florida landowners owe those whom they allow or invite onto their property a duty to ensure that the property is reasonably safe. The exact nature of this duty depends on several factors, including the relationship between the parties and the nature of the hazards that are present on the landowner’s property. When a landowner violates this duty, and a guest is injured as a result, the guest may be able to pursue a claim for compensation against the landowner. A recent case decided by a state appellate court illustrates the type of evidence a social guest must present to recover from a landowner.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a guest at a birthday party that was held at the defendant’s home. The defendant, however, was not the host of the party, and had allowed a friend to host the party at his home. When the plaintiff arrived at the party, she walked around the side of the house down to the backyard where the party was being held. As she made her way down a set of stairs, she tripped and fell. After her fall, she saw that there was an orange extension cord running across the steps. The defendant also stated that there were a lot of people inside the home at the time of her fall.

The defendant admitted that he was doing yard work earlier that day, but explained that all of his tools were gas-powered and that he did not use extension cords. He did, however, acknowledge, that he owned several orange extension cords. The defendant also explained that he left his home before the party started and arrived after the plaintiff’s fall, and that he had no knowledge of how the cord got there or who put it there. The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against the defendant, arguing that he was negligent in the maintenance of his property, which resulted in her injuries. The defendant unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment and filed an appeal.

On appeal, the court held that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment. The court explained that in this case, because the plaintiff was a social guest, she must show that the defendant acted “willfully or maliciously.” The court noted that such a showing could be made by establishing that a landowner failed to take remedial measures to correct a known hazard.

Here, however, the court concluded that there was no evidence that the defendant placed the cord along the stairs or even knew of its existence. The court explained that the plaintiff relied solely on circumstantial evidence that the defendant put the cord along the stairs while working in his yard; however, the defendant explicitly disclaimed that he knew of the cord’s presence. At this point, it was up to the plaintiff to present evidence that was inconsistent with the defendant’s testimony. Because the plaintiff failed to do so, the court held that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment.

Have You Been Injured on Another’s Property?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida slip-and-fall accident on another’s property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the South Florida law firm, Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent accident victims in all types of claims, including premises liability cases. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, all 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

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