As a general rule, Florida landowners must take steps to make sure that their property is safe for the visitors whom they allow onto their land. For the most part, this includes publicly- and privately-owned land. However, under the Florida recreational use statute, there is an exception that allows for landowners to evade responsibility in certain situations.
Under Florida’s recreational use statute, anyone who allows the public to use their property for recreational purposes, without charging a fee, cannot be held liable for injuries occurring on their property. The statute applies to a variety of activities, including hunting, fishing, camping, wildlife viewing, swimming, boating, picnicking, and water skiing. A recent state appellate decision raises a commonly encountered issue in cases that implicate the recreational use statute.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her boyfriend were camping at a state park. Evidently, once the two parked, there were two ways to access the campground from the parking lot; a stone staircase and an ADA-approved wheelchair ramp. The plaintiff and her boyfriend used the stairs on the way down without incident.
The next day, the plaintiff was walking up the steps when she tripped on a portion of uneven pavement. The fall resulted in the plaintiff breaking her ankle in three places. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the state, arguing it was negligent in failing to fix the damaged step or warn her of its existence.
Under this state’s recreational use statute, the landowner is not liable for any injury that occurs on a “trail.” The plaintiff argued that the stone steps were not a trail, and that the court should deny the state’s request to dismiss her claim. The court agreed with the state, finding that the steps were included under the term “trail.” The plaintiff appealed.
The appellate court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument. The court began by noting that Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines “trail” as a marked or established path or route especially through a forest or mountainous region.” The court reasoned that the stone steps where the plaintiff fell fit within this definition. The court went on to explain that just because the stone steps also fit within the definition of “staircase” does not mean that the steps cannot also be a “trail.” The court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Slip and Fall Accident?
If you recently suffered a serious injury after a Florida slip and fall accident, contact the dedicated injury lawyers at Friedman Rodman & Frank for assistance. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we offer comprehensive representation to the victims of Florida personal injury accidents, including clients bringing cases after being involved in motor vehicle collisions and slip and fall accidents. We also handle Florida wrongful death and medical malpractice cases. To learn more about how we can help you bring a claim for compensation based on your injuries, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you unless we can obtain compensation on your behalf.