Florida premises liability laws require all landowners take certain precautions to ensure that their property is safe. The extent of a landowner’s duty significantly depends on the relationship between the landowner and their guest. Guests who are on a landowner’s property for business reasons are referred to as invitees, and enjoy the highest duty of care. Restaurant patrons fit within this category.
Among the issues that come up in South Florida slip and fall cases is that of the plaintiff’s knowledge of the hazard that caused their fall. Defendants often argue that plaintiffs should not be allowed to hold them responsible for risks that the plaintiff should have been able to avoid. Thus, a plaintiff may have a difficult time recovering for their injuries if the defendant can show that the hazard was “open and obvious.” A recent case illustrates this concept.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff visited the defendant restaurant for lunch with a friend. Upon arriving, the plaintiff ascended a set of concrete stairs which contained several small landings. There were handrails along each of the stairs, but not along each of the landings. The plaintiff made it up the stairs without issue. However, after lunch, the plaintiff tripped and fell on the last step. Apparently, the plaintiff thought he was at the bottom of the stairs when, in reality, there was one more step. The plaintiff tripped and was seriously injured.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the restaurant, claiming that the steps were unsafe. Specifically, the plaintiff pointed out that all the steps were the same color as the parking lot. Additionally, there were no markings along the edge of the steps, and there were no handrails along the landings. The restaurant argued that the plaintiff successfully went up the stairs once, indicating that the hazard, if any, was open and obvious.
The court rejected the defendant’s argument. However, the court acknowledged that a plaintiff’s knowledge of a hazard might be imputed if they were previously able to negotiate the hazard successfully. However, the court explained that it would only attribute such knowledge where the hazard is “readily discernible.”
Here, the court held that the evidence suggested the final step was not readily discernible. The court pointed to the plaintiff’s testimony explaining that he could not see the step, as well as the evidence showing that there were no markings on the step. Thus, the court concluded that the defendant restaurant was not entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff’s slip and fall claim.
Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Slip and Fall Accident?
If you or someone you love recently suffered serious injury following a Florida slip and fall accident, contact the injury advocates at Friedman Rodman & Frank. At our South Florida premises liability law firm, we help injury victims recover compensation for their injuries. Our dedicated team of attorneys have a firm command over all relevant laws and regulations, as well as the local court system. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.