Property owners and occupiers owe two duties to invitees upon the property: a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition and a duty to warn of latent hazardous conditions that are or should be known to the owner or occupier but are not known by the invitee and could not be discovered through the invitee’s use of due care. The owner or occupier may not have a duty to warn of an open and obvious hazard, but Florida courts have held that the open and obvious nature of a hazard does not discharge the duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. The plaintiff must prove the owner or occupier had either actual or constructive notice of the hazard. Constructive notice may be shown by evidence that the hazard had been present for a long enough period of time that the owner or occupier would have known of its presence through the exercise of due care.
The Third District recently considered whether summary judgment was properly granted to the defendants when the plaintiff tripped and fell on a piece of re-bar in Grimes v. Family Dollar Stores of Florida, Inc. The plaintiff tripped and fell in the parking lot of a mall. The rows in the parking lot were separated by landscaped areas that had trees with re-bar tie-downs. The owner and lessee of the property hired a company to maintain these areas.
The plaintiff walked through a landscaped area to go to one of the stores. The plaintiff tripped on a re-bar that was not tied to any of the trees or shrubs, injuring her knee. She filed a negligence lawsuit against the store, the landowner, and the lessee, alleging failure to warn, failure to maintain the premises, and failure to correct a dangerous condition. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants allowed the re-bar to protrude as a concealed dangerous condition in a path used by invitees to the store.