Court Overturns Summary Judgment in Florida Premises Liability Case

In Cook v. Bay Area Renaissance Festival of Largo, Inc., a visitor to a festival apparently parked in an overflow lot after being directed to do so by an event volunteer. While leaving the festival, the woman reportedly tripped on an exposed pipe while walking on a patch of unpaved sidewalk that connected the overflow lot to the festival. At the time, the walkway was owned by the city. As a result of her fall, the woman injured her foot. After her fall, the woman reported the incident to a festival employee, who immediately removed the pipe without seeking prior authorization from the landowner.

Later, the injured woman filed a negligent maintenance lawsuit against the festival operator in a Florida court. During discovery, the woman admitted the pipe was readily visible to pedestrians and that her fellow festival attendees warned her about the pipe immediately prior to her fall. In addition, the woman and her spouse offered conflicting testimony regarding whether they were told by festival workers to use the unpaved walkway.

In response to the woman’s complaint, the festival owner filed a motion for summary judgment. In its motion, the company argued there was no evidence to suggest it had control over the area where the woman was hurt. Generally, a motion for summary judgment may be granted if no material facts are in dispute and one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. When considering such a motion, a court must view all evidence offered in the light that is most favorable to the non-moving party. After the trial court granted the festival operator’s motion for summary judgment, the injured woman filed an appeal with Florida’s Second District.

On appeal, the woman argued a genuine issue of fact existed regarding whether the festival operator exercised control over the unpaved walkway where she was hurt. The appellate court stated that, although a party’s ability to exercise control over a piece of property is not relevant in a Florida premises liability action, a party who assumes control over a piece of land has a duty to maintain it. Since the evidence offered by the parties suggested that the festival exercised control over the unpaved walkway, the Court of Appeals ruled that a question of fact existed.

In addition, the court dismissed the festival operator’s claim that it had no duty to warn the woman of the open and obvious pipe hazard, even if it exercised control over the premises. According to Florida’s Second District, whether the pipe constituted a dangerous condition or if the accident was foreseeable were questions of fact for the jury to decide. Since the festival company was not entitled to summary judgment, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the negligent maintenance case for trial.

If you were hurt in South Florida due to a property owner’s negligent act, you need a dedicated personal injury lawyer on your side. To discuss your right to recover damages for your harm with a hardworking Miami premises liability attorney today, do not hesitate to call the knowledgeable advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Cook v. Bay Area Renaissance Festival of Largo, Inc., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 2nd Dist. 2015

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