Florida Premises Liability Claims and the State’s Recreational Use Statute

premises liabilityIn Florida, landowners are required to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition for those whom they invite onto their land. As a general rule, a landowner must take care to either remedy all known hazards on their property or at least warn visitors of the presence of the hazard.

Importantly, a Florida slip-and-fall injury victim does not need to prove that the landowner had actual knowledge of a hazard in order to be successful. It is sufficient to establish that the landowner “should have known” about the hazard, given the surrounding circumstances. This is helpful to many Florida premises liability plaintiffs because landowners may not readily admit that they were aware of a hazard on their property.

Another wrinkle in Florida premises liability law is the state’s recreational use statute. Under Florida Statutes section 375.251, a landowner who allows their land to be used by the public for recreational purposes does not have a duty to keep the land safe or to warn those who use the land of any hazards. In order for the recreational use state to apply, the defendant cannot charge a fee for the use of their land. Additionally, the statute does not protect a landowner against “willful or malicious” conduct. However, this can be difficult to establish. A recent case illustrates a plaintiff’s attempt to establish a city’s “willful or malicious” conduct.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding a bicycle in a park that was maintained by the defendant city. The plaintiff rode over a pothole, fell off his bike, and suffered serious injury as a result of the fall. He then filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city. Because the plaintiff’s injury occurred in a park, the state’s recreational use statute applied, meaning the plaintiff had to prove that the city acted willfully or with malice in order to recover.

In support of his claim, the plaintiff presented evidence showing that a city employee routinely traveled along the path where the pothole was located. This, the plaintiff argued, showed that the city knew of the pothole’s existence but failed to take any action. However, in its defense, the city argued it did not have knowledge of the pothole, and thus it could not have acted willfully or maliciously. The city employee testified that, although he did pass by the pothole on a regular basis, he never actually noticed the pothole. Additionally, the city explained that it had never received any complaints about the pothole.

The court agreed with the city, finding that without having established that the city knew that the pothole existed, the plaintiff could not prove that it acted willfully or with malice. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you have recently suffered serious injury while on the property of another, you may be able to recover financial compensation for your injuries through a South Florida premises liability lawsuit. At the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims and their families in Florida personal injury cases. Whether your injuries were due to an inattentive driver, a negligent business owner, or a dangerous product, we can help you pursue a claim for compensation against the responsible parties. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Discusses Caterer’s Liability in Recent Food-Poisoning Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 19, 2018.

Florida Court Dismisses Slip-and-Fall Case, Finding the Hazard Causing the Plaintiff’s Fall Was “Open and Obvious”, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 13, 2018.

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