Florida Court on Accident Injuries and the "Open and Obvious" Requirement - Dampier v. Morgan Tire & Auto, LLC

March 31, 2012

A property owner is generally responsible for keeping the property in a reasonably safe condition, especially for invited guests such as customers. When an invitee is injured on another person's property, Florida courts will typically consider whether the owner knew or should have known that the property was in a dangerous condition and whether the owner properly warned the invitee of any danger. In Dampier v. Morgan Tire & Auto, LLC, Florida's Fifth District Court of Appeal explains that certain conditions, however, are so "open and obvious" that the owner will not be held liable for injuries that result because of them.

723586_tree_stump.jpgPlaintiff Dandal Dampier was injured while at Morgan Tire & Auto (owned by Defendant Tires Plus) for an oil change. Specifically, Plaintiff "tripped on a stump" in a raised planting bed connecting the premises with a public sidewalk "and fell headlong into the parking lot, resulting in various injuries," according to the court. He sued Defendant for negligence, asserting that it failed to properly maintain the walkway and to warn of its dangerous condition. The trial judge granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment, finding that Defendant was not liable for Plaintiff's injuries because the stump over which Plaintiff fell "is so open and obvious as to not constitute a dangerous condition as a matter of law."

In affirming the trial court's decision, the Fifth District stated that "a property owner owes two duties to an invitee: (1) the duty to use reasonable care in maintaining the property in a reasonably safe condition; and (2) the duty to warn of latent or concealed dangers which are or should be known to the owner and which are unknown to the invitee and cannot be discovered through the exercise of due care." While the property owner has no duty to warn an invitee about "open and obvious" dangers, it nevertheless retains the duty to repair such conditions unless the condition is "so obvious and not inherently dangerous that they can be said... not to constitute a dangerous condition."

Citing its 1987 decision in K.G. v. Winter Springs Cmty. Evangelical Congregational Church, the court noted that landscaping features are typically not considered to create a dangerous condition invoking a property owner's duties to invitees. Similarly, the court concluded that the stump at issue in this case did not constitute a dangerous condition creating liability for failure to maintain the premises in a safe condition or warn invitees of the danger associated with walking the planting bed. As a result, Defendant was not liable for any injuries sustained by Plaintiff in the fall.

If you were recently injured in an accident and are interested in pursuing a claim against the property owner of the premises on which it occurred, call the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine today. Our attorneys represent clients throughout South Florida, including in Hialeah, Coral Springs, Pompano Beach and Hollywood. We are happy to discuss your potential claim in a free initial consultation. You can reach the firm's Fort Lauderdale offices at (800) 747-3733 or fill out an on-line "Contact Us" form.

Related blog posts:

Injured on Another Person's Property? Liability May Depend on the Fine Print - Marler v. U-Store-It Mini Warehouse Co.

In Order to Recover Damages for Personal Injury, First You Must Know Which Laws Apply - Schippers v. US

Florida Construction Accident Injuries: Workers' Compensation and Personal Injury Lawsuits - Lovering v. Nickerson