Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals handed down a ruling against a condominium association who failed to repair a buckled section of carpet in a common area of the condominium. The injured plaintiff and other condominium owners had repeatedly complained to the Board of Directors of the Association about the carpet, but the Association did nothing to remedy it. It was known that the carpet buckled especially after a cleaning while still wet.
The injured owner sued the Miami-based Association for failing to repair the carpet. She suffered injuries to arm, hand, and neck. The Association moved for summary judgment, alleging that there was no valid claim as the buckled carpet was an “open and obvious” hazard. The trial court agreed with the Association, dismissing the injured owner’s claim. The injured owner appealed, arguing that Association was under a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe and serviceable condition for the residents, thus still responsible for repairing the carpet in the common area.
The Florida Court of Appeals looked to a previous decision, Kopf v. City of Miami Beach, 653 So. 2d 1046 (Fla. 3d DCA 1995). This case had similar facts, where the injured sued the City of Miami Beach after she tripped on a portion of sidewalk that was cracked and deteriorated. The City, like the condominium association, claimed that the danger was open and obvious, and the trial court precluded the plaintiff from suit. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling, stating that there were issues of negligence, comparative negligence, and causation which can only be resolved by the jury. The court did not feel that a landlord should be shielded from their duty and liability for their negligence, simply because the hazard could be seen.
In another case, Lotto v. Point East Two Condominium Corporation, Inc., 702 So. 2d 1361 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997), the injured tripped on a cracked sidewalk attached to the condominium complex. The injured sued, alleging that the association failed to warn of the dangerous condition and neglected to maintain the premises in a safe condition. The Court of Appeals thought the obvious danger did not merit a duty to warn, but the association was still under a duty to repair the sidewalk.
Ultimately, the Court of Appeals ruled that the condominium association had a duty to maintain the premises, but questions of comparative negligence by the injured remained. The court determined that the question of whether the injured plaintiff was also negligent should be given to a jury since she chose to repeatedly frequent an area that had an open and obvious danger. While the appellate court believed that the condominium association had a duty to repair, the court suggested that the injured plaintiff may also be found negligent, thus potentially reducing the association’s liability and obligation to make the injured plaintiff whole. In Florida, if a plaintiff is found comparatively negligent, but the defendant mostly negligent, the plaintiff may still recover, but the amount of recovery is reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff’s negligence.
The South Florida Premises Liability Attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank know the complexities of comparative fault. They have aggressively sued apartment complex owners and condominium associations for neglecting their duty to maintain safe premises for the residents. If you have been injured in the common area of an apartment complex, even if it is not where you reside, contact the premise liability attorneys for a free, confidential consultation at (877) 488-8585.
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