In a recent case, the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida Fifth District 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 entering a store, and the defendant, the company operating the store, Panera. The suit resulted from an incident where the plaintiff tripped and fell on a weighted sign base as she was entering the Panera location.
The trial court found in favor of the defendant granting summary judgment, finding that there was no concealed peril that would have triggered a duty to warn, and, further, that the plaintiff failed to look down, which caused her to trip and fall on the base. In finding that the base she tripped on was open and obvious, the court ruled that the restaurant was not liable for injuries and harm. In Florida, the open and obvious doctrine provides that landowners are not liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions of their land when the danger is known or obvious unless the landowner would anticipate those injuries.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued that in many open and obvious cases, the conditions are inherent to the landscape, such as uneven pavement or traffic bumps, which is not the case in this claim. The appellate court agreed, holding that the sign base is not so common as to be encountered by people on a daily basis. As a result, the appeals court ruled that there was an issue of material fact present, reversing the trial court decision.
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 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.
Florida landowning defendants will often try to use the open and obvious defense to protect against their actual negligence when it comes to injuries on their property. Plaintiffs should consult an experienced injury attorney to address these common defenses to make sure they receive the best possible award to recover from their injuries.
Have You Suffered Injuries in Florida?
If you or someone you love has been injured in a Florida slip and fall or other premises liability accident, the lawyers at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada can help you understand your rights and the remedies available to you under Florida law. Our team of attorneys has successfully advocated for injured individuals throughout Florida for 46 years. Expenses from injuries can quickly become overwhelming, and having an experienced roster of attorneys by your side can make a world of difference for your claim. Make sure that you make the most out of your claim and get the award that you deserve. Contact our team at 305-448-8585 to schedule a free and no-obligation initial consultation with a lawyer at our office.