The Open and Obvious Doctrine
Business owners in Florida have a legal duty to ensure that their premises are reasonably safe for visitors and that patrons are warned of all hidden dangers. When property owners fail to fulfill these responsibilities, they can be held accountable in court and required to compensate the injured party for hospital bills and lost wages. However, there are exceptions to this rule which can keep injured parties from collecting damages. To learn more about these exceptions and whether they apply to your own slip and fall case, please contact an experienced slip and fall attorney who can answer your questions.
Temporary Foreign Substances
Although property owners can generally be held accountable for their negligence when it causes a visitor to sustain an injury, they can escape liability in certain situations. For example, if a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance while patronizing a business, the injured party can only collect damages if he or she can prove that the company had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangers condition and should have taken steps to remedy it. Constructive knowledge can be established by providing evidence demonstrating that:
- The dangerous condition existed for a length of time in which a business, exercising ordinary care, should have identified it; or
- The condition occurred regularly and was foreseeable.
While this exception limits the liability of some property owners for accidents that occur on their property, it is not the only defense available to business owners.
The open and obvious doctrine is an affirmative defense that can be raised by property owners when visitors are injured on their land. Under this legal theory, plaintiffs cannot recover compensation for injuries sustained on a business owner’s property if they failed to use ordinary caution or reasonable care despite the existence of an obvious or known danger. In fact, property owners do not have a duty to warn against open and obvious conditions at all if they are not inherently dangerous. This rule is based on the principle that the obvious nature of a hazard is sufficient warning to visitors who are expected to recognize these types of dangers and protect themselves accordingly. Examples of hazards that have been deemed by the courts to be open and obvious include:
- A planter that was six feet in diameter;
- A landscaped area that was located next to a walkway and was surrounded by large planks;
- Raised concrete, where nothing obstructed a person’s view of the parking lot’s surface;
- A landscaped area containing trees and grass, where no walkway was present;
- Concrete blocks marking a property line;
- Uneven joints where concrete met asphalt in a parking lot;
- Wheel stops in the center of a parking spot;
- A sidewalk curb;
- Bricks bordering a tree; and
- A ladder on a store selling floor.
When determining whether a hazard was open and obvious, courts will generally assess whether a reasonable person would have noticed the danger and taken steps to avoid it.
Contact a Dedicated Slip and Fall Attorney
To speak with an experienced slip and fall attorney about your own case, please contact Boone & Davis at 954-566-9919 today. Our dedicated Fort Lauderdale team is eager to begin assisting you with your case.