Often times we represent clients who have suffered an injury on someone else’s property and they want to know whether they can successfully pursue a claim for negligence against the owner or occupier of the property. Questions also arise regarding what type of condition on the property caused our client’s injuries and whether the owner or occupier of the property had the responsibility, or “duty,” to warn our clients of that danger. To answer these questions and determine whether the claim would be successful, an overview and understanding of how Florida law views and defines “dangerous condition” and to what standard owners or occupiers of land are held is imperative.
Was the Danger that Caused the Injury “Obvious?”
As a general matter in Florida, an owner or occupier of land is not required to warn invitees (those individuals who are on the property for the benefit of the owner/occupier, such as a customer shopping in a store) of obvious dangers. This is because the law encourages people to take responsibility for their own safety and keep a look out for obvious dangers and take action to prevent injury accordingly. However, the law will require an owner/occupier of land to warn its invitees of an obvious danger if the owner should anticipate that the obvious danger could be harmful despite the fact that it is obvious. See, Moultrie v. Consolidated Store Int’l Corp., 764 So. 2d 637 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000).
When going through this type of analysis, it is important to consider who will ultimately be making the determination of whether a defendant should anticipate that an obvious danger could be harmful and cause injury. That decision resides with the jury as a fact finder during a trial, or a judge if there is a bench trial. Most of the inquiries are fact intensive and will hinge on the specifics of a given case. By way of example, in Houk v. Monsanto Co., although the plaintiff knew that there were drains that carried hot water, it was not obvious to the plaintiff that some of those drains may not have been properly covered and thus could cause injury. 609 So. 2d 757.
Was the Injury Suffered by the Plaintiff Foreseeable?
In order to find that the owner or occupier of the property should have warned its invitees of an obvious danger, there must be foreseeable harm. If there was foreseeable harm, then the owner/occupier of property can be required to provide warning of the harm if the type of injury was foreseeable based on the surrounding circumstances. This concept is best illustrated by way of example.
In Weir v. Krystal Co., the plaintiff tripped and fell over indentations in a restaurant parking lot. Although the indentations where the plaintiff tripped were obvious and visible, there were other factors at play that helped the plaintiff’s argument that the owner/occupier of the property should still have anticipated harm. The factors that the plaintiff utilized in supporting that argument were that the indentations were located close to the curb and restaurant front door in an area where there were cars and often times traffic. Thus, the plaintiff argued that one could be easily distracted by the traffic and other circumstances and should not be expected to be looking down at that ground to see whether the parking lot contained conditions that might be dangerous. Therefore, the court found that it would be up to the jury to determine whether the defendants should have anticipated the harm and thus should have implemented sufficient warnings. 612 So. 2d 665 (Fla. 1st DCA 1993).
Call Dolman Law Group for More Information
If you've been injured on someone else’s property as the result of a dangerous condition, speak with the attorneys at Dolman Law Group. A thorough examination of your claim does not end after our investigator is sent to the scene to gather evidence; rather, a thorough analysis of Florida law as it relates to premise liability and the facts and circumstances surrounding your fall are crucial in establishing liability and successfully pursuing your claim. For more information call 727-451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765