In a recent case, the First District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a duty to warn or duty of reasonable care premise liability action between a plaintiff that was a customer in a store and the defendant, the company operating the store. The suit resulted from an incident where the plaintiff tripped inside the store. The trial court found in favor of the defendant, finding that the plaintiff due to an open and obvious condition. In Florida, the open and obvious doctrine provides that a landowner is not liable for injuries and harm caused by a dangerous condition of their land when the danger is known or obvious unless the landowner would anticipate those injuries.
A recent state supreme court case explored the issue of the open and obvious doctrine when a plaintiff sued a church after tripping on the top step of a flight of stairs. In that case, the court ruled that due to the fact that the plaintiff had used those stairs just minutes before and due to the fact that the top step was made from different material and looked different from the other steps, the danger was open and obvious, and therefore the defendant was not liable for the injury.
While the open and obvious doctrine can prevent plaintiffs from successfully holding landowners fully accountable for injuries in Florida, there are other ways to make sure injured parties are properly compensated. Florida landowners are still required to maintain their land and the premises in a safe condition. The courts of Florida have ruled that landowners can still be at fault for failing to maintain a safe premises, even if an obvious or open danger means they do not need to warn others. Specifically, even in circumstances that are open or obvious, property owners should anticipate that people on the property will encounter the hazard, and subsequently can be found negligent for failing to maintain the premises safely. In such a situation, the plaintiff may be found to have contributed to their own injury, but the landowner can still be apportioned blame.