Area Not Designated For Walking Cannot Be Dangerous

Personal Injury

In the case of Trugreen Landcare, LLC v. Charles Lacapra, Case Number 5D17-1594 (Fla. 5th DCA August 31, 2018), Florida’s Fifth DCA held that a palm tree planter in the parking lot of a movie theater where the plaintiff was cutting through was not dangerous as a matter of law because it was not designed for walking.

Facts Of The Case

The plaintiff tripped and fell while making a shortcut across a landscaped area that was completely surrounded by sidewalk.  The jury awarded the plaintiff $400,000 in damages but held the plaintiff 50% responsible for his own injury.

The defendant appealed challenging that a landscaped area not designed for walking was not a dangerous condition and that any such danger associated is “open and obvious” (for which there is no legal liability).

Legal Analysis Of A Florida Slip And Fall Injury

This case is yet another reminder of what a business owner’s legal duty in Florida is as it relates to premises liability.  The case directly says:

[t]he owner or occupier of real property owes two duties to business invitees, namely a duty to “use ordinary care in keeping the premises in a reasonably safe condition” and a duty to warn of latent or concealed hazards that the owner/occupier knew or should have known about and which are not known to the invitee in a timely manner.

The open and obvious danger doctrine may discharge the duty to warn, but it “does not apply when negligence is predicated on breach of the duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.

Some Conditions Are So Obvious That There Is No Liability

While you will need a breach of a legal duty as described above in order to have a premises liability case in Florida, Florida courts have found that the following situations are so open and obvious that there can be no legal liability.

  1. Landscaping features “are generally found not to constitute a dangerous condition as a matter of law.”  Dampier v. Morgan Tire & Auto., LLC, 82 So. 3d 204 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012) and K.G. ex rel. Grajeda v. Winter Springs Cmty. Evangelical Congregational Church, 509 So. 2d 384 (Fla. 5th DCA 1987).
  2. Tree roots in the landscaping areas (planter beds) as there is “no duty to makes areas that are not designed for walking reasonably safe for that purpose or to warn that they are not safe for walking.”  See Dampier.
  3. No duty to make raised timbers alongside a large planter bed safe for walking or to warn of danger as it was not foreseeable they would be used for walking.  City of Melbourne v. Dunn, 841 So. 3d 504 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003).
  4. Metal-rimmed edge of palm tree planter … was obvious and not inherently dangerous.  Taylor v. Univ. City Prop. Mgmt., 779 So. 2d 621 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001).

Care Needed In Screening Your Florida Slip And Fall Case

The lesson to be learned here is that the condition that caused your fall should ideally be something that the business should not be doing on its property.  In this case, the plaintiff sued the company responsible for performing the landscaping duties and not the movie theater.  Whether the movie theater can delegate their duties to maintain the property is another question (non-delegable duty).

Get Help With Your Case

If you have sustained an injury as a result of a dangerous condition at a business (premises liability case), then you should speak to a Lakeland, Florida personal injury attorney about whether there is legal liability for condition that caused your fall.  Call today to schedule your free consultation.

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September 04, 2018