Florida premises liability lawsuits often involve a slip and fall or trip and fall. These accidents can occur at businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, nursing homes, and public buildings. Generally, under state law, business owners and land occupiers owe invitees a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. Despite the law, property owners often fail to maintain their property safely and often delay making repairs or address hazards.
On the other hand, in some instances, a business owner may believe their property is safe. In these cases, the trier of fact will determine whether the property is safe under a “reasonable person” standard. In other words, the court will ask whether another similarly situated entity would act similarly or evaluate the danger in the same way. Moreover, some business owners may argue that the danger was “open and obvious.” When this occurs, the court will determine whether the condition was so open and obvious that it serves as a warning to the invitee to protect themselves from its dangers.
For example, in a recent opinion, a Florida court addressed whether a groove in the pavement in an ice cream store’s parking lot was an open and obvious hazard. In that case, a woman was navigating a parking lot to get to the ice cream shop when she tripped and fell into a groove in the pavement. The woman initiated a lawsuit against the parking lot owner, alleging that her injuries arose because of its negligence. At trial, the defendant argued that the depression in the pavement was so open and obvious that the woman should have realized its dangers and taken steps to avoid hurting herself.
Under Florida law, the open and obvious doctrine is not a clear-cut or automatic defense to premises liability lawsuits. Instead, the trier of fact must take into consideration all of the circumstances of the accident. Thus, even if a condition is open and obvious, the law does not excuse an owner of its duties to protect or warn invitees of conditions that may pose an unreasonable danger. For example, this typically applies in cases where an owner should reasonably expect that the invitee will be distracted by something else on the premises, such as a large display, or an unusual or novel structure on the premises.
In this case, the evidence presented at trial indicated that the ice cream shop was an example of “novel” architecture, because the building’s shape resembled a giant ice cream cone. Further, the woman testified that she was negotiating a parking lot with her young children while also observing the building’s unique nature at the time of her fall. Taking this into account, the court reasoned that a jury may conclude that the defendant should have anticipated that a customer would be distracted and might not have seen the groove in the parking lot. The court reversed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case back to the lower court with instructions to allow the plaintiff’s case to proceed.
Have You Suffered Injuries on a Florida Property?
If you or someone you love has suffered serious injuries or died because of a property owner or occupier’s negligence, contact the Florida slip and fall accident attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada, P.A, to discuss your rights and remedies. The attorneys at our law firm have significant experience successfully resolving all types of personal injury claims on behalf of our clients. Through our representation, our clients have recovered compensation for losses related to their medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Contact our law firm at 877-448-8585 to set a no-risk, no-obligation, free consultation with one of the dedicated personal injury lawyers at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada