Florida Court Discusses Open and Obvious Doctrine in Trip and Fall Cases

Store owners have an obligation to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition, to avoid harming their customers. While store owners can be held liable for breaching this duty, simply because a customer falls and suffers harm does not mean that the store will be deemed responsible. For example, in some cases, the courts will find that the condition that caused the injured party’s harm was so conspicuous and commonplace that the injured party should have discovered it and avoided injury. The open and obvious doctrine was the topic of a recent Florida opinion in a matter in which the court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. If you were harmed in a fall at a store, it is smart to consult a dedicated Florida personal injury attorney to discuss what evidence you must produce to demonstrate liability.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff was shopping in the defendant store when she tripped and fell over a crate that was in the middle of the aisle, suffering personal injuries. She subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging it negligently allowed a dangerous condition to remain on the premises, causing her fall.

Reportedly, at the plaintiff’s deposition, she testified that she had previously worked at the store and had visited it on over fifty occasions prior to the fall, during which she had seen crates and boxes on the floor. Further, she did not know who placed the crate in the aisle, how long it had been there, or whether it was placed there by one of the defendant’s employees. After discovery closed, the defendant moved for dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims via summary judgment. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Open and Obvious Doctrine in Florida

The appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling, finding that the open and obvious doctrine barred the plaintiff’s recovery. The court explained that under Florida law, a business owner is not liable for the failure to warn a customer of a dangerous condition on its premises if the danger is obvious or known to the customer, unless the business owner should anticipate harm would occur.

The open and obvious doctrine arises out of the generally accepted idea that property owners and possessors should be permitted to assume that people entering the property will observe conditions that are open and obvious to them if they employ their senses in an ordinary manner. In the subject case, the court found that it was clear that the crate was not an inherently dangerous condition, and further, that it was open and obvious. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Skilled Florida Attorney

Property owners have a duty to alleviate dangerous conditions that can cause their customers to suffer harm, and if they do not, they can be held accountable. If you were hurt in a trip and fall accident, it is smart to speak to an attorney regarding your rights. The Florida lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. are skilled at establishing retail store liability for trip and fall accidents, and if you engage our services, we will work tirelessly to help you seek justice. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to schedule a conference.





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