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Florida Court Holds Landowner Can Be Liable for Injuries, Even Though the Hazard Was “Open and Obvious”

As a general rule, Florida landowners owe a duty of care to those whom they invite onto their property. This duty, however, is not without its limits. For example, a landowner will not typically be found liable for injuries that are caused by a hazard that is “open and obvious.” The rationale is that when a hazard is open and obvious, the visitor has equal of the danger as the landowner, and should be able to avoid the hazard.

In a recent Florida slip-and-fall case, however, the court discussed a situation where a landowner may still be liable for a plaintiff’s injuries that were caused by an open and obvious hazard.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff tripped and fell on an uneven section of sidewalk that was within a condominium complex. Evidently, the plaintiff had lived in the complex for 15 years, and regularly passed by the area where she fell. Additionally, the area was marked by management with blue dots to indicate it was an area most in need of repair.

The plaintiff filed a Florida premises liability lawsuit against the condominium complex. In response to the plaintiff’s claim, the defendant argued that the uneven sidewalk was an open and obvious hazard and that the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed. The trial court found that the uneven sidewalk was an open and obvious hazard and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff did not take issue with the lower court’s finding that the hazard was open and obvious. Instead, the plaintiff argued that, even if the sidewalk was an open and obvious hazard, the complex should have anticipated that residents would regularly be using the sidewalk.

The appellate court agreed with the plaintiff. The court first noted that an unlevel floor is, as a matter of law, an obvious hazard and the lower court was correct in that determination. However, the court explained that the obviousness of a hazard goes only to the defendant’s duty to warn visitors, and not a landowner’s duty to maintain a safe premises.

Here, the court held that the condo complex did not have a duty to warn the plaintiff of the uneven sidewalk because the hazard was open and obvious, but may have had a duty to repair the sidewalk, which it knew to be hazardous. The court then held that the lower court mistakenly dismissed the plaintiff’s case, and reversed that court’s decision.

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

If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in a Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. At the law firm of Cecere Santana, we have decades of experience assisting Florida injury victims and their families pursue claims for compensation based on the injuries they have sustained. We have offices across South Florida, including in Hollywood, Plantation, and Coral Gables. To learn more about how we can help you with your case, call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation today.

See Additional Blog Posts:

The Florida Rules of Evidence Play a Major Role in All Personal Injury Accidents, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, January 17, 2019.

The Importance of Naming All Potentially Liable Parties in a Florida Car Accident Case, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, published January 23, 2019

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