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Navigating the “Obvious Danger” Doctrine in Florida Premises Liability Claims

Whether you work in an office building or in a manufacturing plant, you go to work every day with a reasonable expectation that your workplace will be safe. In the event that something is unsafe or potentially dangerous, employers will typically mark or block off the space. For example, wet floor signs indicate when a corridor may be slippery, and construction tape can block off areas undergoing renovation. If you are injured while on the job because of a workplace hazard in Florida, you may be eligible to file a claim for compensation.

In a recent District Court of Appeal of Florida decision, the court considered the obvious danger doctrine in a premises liability claim. The plaintiff, an employee of the defendant, was injured when he stepped into an uncovered drain on a construction site. At various times, the drain that injured the plaintiff was covered and uncovered, depending on the phase of construction. When the plaintiff was last at the site, the door he stepped through before being injured by the drain was marked off and closed with tape. On the day of the accident, however, the door was not blocked off by tape. Because of especially bright conditions and a mixture of sunlight and dust from the construction, the plaintiff was blinded temporarily when he opened the door to a landing and stepped into the drain. Following the accident, the plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence, arguing that the defendant breached its duty to maintain safe premises. The trial court ruled in favor of the defendant, concluding that they had no duty to warn the plaintiff of “an open and obvious drain” and that the plaintiff should have taken steps to avoid the accident.

On appeal, the court reversed and sided with the plaintiff. According to the appellate court, the lower court was incorrect when it held that the defendant was not liable because the drain was open and obvious. Although the drain may have been obviously uncovered, the defendant failed to dispute whether its dangerous condition was obvious. Further, the court reasoned that even if the drain’s danger was open and obvious, the defendant still had a duty to maintain reasonably safe premises for its employees.

In Florida, premises liability claims can often be complex and confusing. When evaluating the “obvious danger” doctrine, the landowner is not liable for injuries to invitees caused by a dangerous condition when the danger is known or obvious to the injured party, unless the owner should anticipate the harm despite the dangerous condition being open and obvious. The analysis of obvious danger, however, is not simply whether the object is obvious, but whether the dangerous condition of the object is obvious. Further, the court must holistically examine all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident and the dangerous condition.

Do You Need a Florida Personal Injury Attorney?

If you or someone you know has been recently injured in a Florida premises liability accident, contact the experienced attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada. Our team of lawyers has represented personal injury clients on all types of claims spanning premises liability, automobile accidents, insurance issues, and more. To schedule a free initial consultation today, contact us at 877-448-8585.

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