Court Finds City Contractors Not Liable for Obstructive Shrubbery

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida car accident case discussing the Slavin doctrine, and how it can protect a contractor from liability that was allegedly caused by their work. The case arose in the context of a motorcycle accident that the plaintiff argues was the result of shrubbery that obstructed the view of motorists as they approached the intersection.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a surviving family member of a motorcyclist who was killed when he entered an intersection and was hit by another vehicle. The plaintiff believed that the accident was the result of shrubbery that obscured the vision of motorists as they approached the intersection. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against several entities, including the company that planned the landscaping project, the general contractor, and the landscaping company (‘the contractors”).

The plaintiff claimed that the contractors responsible for the planning and planting of the shrubs were responsible for the accident because, but for their actions, the shrubbery would not have been planted in a position that obscured vision of the intersection. The contractors all sought dismissal based on the Slavin doctrine, which can preclude liability for independent contractors when the following elements are met:

  • The contractors’ work was completed;
  • The owner of the property (in this case, the city) accepted the work; and
  • The alleged cause of the plaintiff’s injury was obvious.

The Court’s Analysis

The court began by noting that the first two elements were not contested, and were clearly met. The court noted that the contractors’ work had been completed and accepted by the city several years prior to the accident. The court them moved on to the obviousness of the alleged cause of injury, or as the court described it, whether the cause was “patent.”

The court explained that the obviousness element is important because, if an alleged hazard is obvious, it stands to reason that the property’s owner was aware of it and accepted the job as complete. In such a case, the property owner would accept responsibility for the potential hazard.

The test the court applied to determine whether the alleged defect was “patent” was whether “the dangerousness of the condition was obvious had the owner exercised reasonable care.” Notably, the court explained that the subjective knowledge of the contractors was not relevant. The court also explained that the case did not present the question of whether the contractors owed the plaintiff a duty of care or if they breached that duty. Instead, the focus was on whether the Slavin doctrine protected the contractors. Finding that it did, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida car accident that you believe was caused by the negligence of a government actor or contractor, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. At the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank, our attorneys have extensive experience representing injury victims and their families in all types of Florida personal injury lawsuits, including those naming government defendants. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Accident Victim’s Failure to Provide Immediate Notice of Case May Preclude Recovery, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 19, 2017.

Used-Car Dealer May Be on the Hook for Injuries Related to Missing Muffler, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 5, 2018.

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