Florida Court Discusses “Open and Obvious” Doctrine in Recent Premises Liability Case

As a general matter, Florida landowners have a duty to ensure the area is safe for those whom they invite onto their property. In the event that a landowner fails to take the necessary precautions to ensure their property is safe, the landowner could be liable to any visitor for injuries caused by that hazard through a Florida premises liability lawsuit.

In Florida, landowners owe two distinct duties to their visitors. First, to “exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises reasonably safe.” Second, landowners also have a duty to warn guests of known hazards that may not be immediately recognizable. Simply stated, Florida landowners have a duty to keep their property reasonably safe, and when a hazard does exist, they must warn visitors of the hazard’s existence.

With respect to warning visitors of known hazards, not all hazards are viewed as equal under the law. Courts have routinely held that landowners do not have a duty to warn their visitors about “open and obvious” hazards. Notably, the open and obvious doctrine does not protect a landowner from a failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping a safe area. Thus, the doctrine is only applied in cases where a plaintiff claims the landowner failed to warn them of a known hazard. A recent case illustrates how courts apply the open and obvious doctrine.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was exiting the defendant movie theater when he stepped off a paved sidewalk and into an unpaved planter bed containing a large palm tree. As the plaintiff was walking across the planter box, he stepped in a hidden depression and fell, resulting in serious injury. The plaintiff later filed a Florida premises liability lawsuit against the theater.

The theater sought dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim, arguing that the planter box was neither a dangerous hazard, and that whatever risk was presented by the box was an open and obvious. The theater also claimed that the plaintiff should have expected the ground to be uneven when he stepped off the paved sidewalk and into the unpaved planter box.

The court agreed with the theater, noting that previous decisions from Florida courts have held that palm tree planter boxes are not dangerous hazards and their installation will not result in a landowner being in violation of a duty to exercise ordinary care. Similarly, the court held that the planter box clearly contained uneven ground, such that the hazard was open and obvious. Thus, the court held that the theater did not have a duty to warn the plaintiff of the dangers presented by the planter box.

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

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Frankl Kominsky have extensive experience representing injury victims and their loved ones in a wide range of Florida premises liability cases, including slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more, call 561-609-1948 to schedule a free consultation today.

See Additional Blog Posts:

The Importance of Establishing a Defendant’s Knowledge of the Hazard in Florida Premises Liability Lawsuits, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, June 13, 2018.

Florida Court Dismisses Claim Due to Plaintiff’s Concealment of Previous Injury, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, July 18, 2018.