Our personal injury lawyers frequently represent shoppers who trip and fall when visiting shopping malls, grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses or commercial properties held open to the public. Owners and parties in possession of business property held open to the public have a legal duty to keep the premises in reasonably safe condition for “invitees,” which includes customers, suppliers, maintenance people, and others engaged in business purposes. This duty is accompanied by a duty to warn “invitees” of latent (non-obvious) hazards that the owner or party in possession knows or should know exist that are not open and obvious. Even if the hazard is open and obvious, Florida appellate courts have not excused the duty to mainain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Knowledge of the hazard includes actual knowledge or constructive knowledge based on factors that should have given notice with the exercise of reasonable care. An important factor is the duration of time the hazard has been present.
A recent decision from the Florida 3rd DCA in which an invitee slipped on rebar in the parking lot of a shopping mall provides a primer on these basic principles of Florida trip and fall law. In Grimes v. Family Dollar Stores of Florida, Inc., the injury victim attempted to use a short cut through a landscaped island that used re-bar as ties downs. Maintenance of these areas was performed by an outside company hired by the owner and commercial tenant. The trip and fall victim suffered injury when taking the shortcut where he tripped on re-bar that was not tied to any of the vegetation. When the plaintiff filed her lawsuit for injuries suffered to her knee, she alleged the owner and commercial tenant failed to maintain the premises in a safe condition, warn of the latent hazard, and remedy the hazardous condition. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants relying on an earlier decision involving a fall after cutting through a parking lot. In the prior case, the injury victim tripped over a root when cutting through a landscaped area of the parking lot.
The court in the instant case reversed the trial court and distinguished the prior decision. Evidence produced in the instant case revealed that the area where the injury victim tripped had been used for a while as a shortcut. The area had obvious signs of significant foot traffic, which included the fact the grass had been trampled. A trash receptacle also was relocated to the area apparently to accommodate the foot traffic. Based on this evidence, the 3rd DCA found that reasonable jurors could find that the defendants had constructive knowledge of the hazard. The court reasoned that the duration of time the hazard existed, as well as evidence that people had been walking through the area, was sufficient to justify imputing knowledge of the fact the island was being used as a shortcut. The court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court because questions of fact existed regarding the following: (1) the existence of a hazardous condition; (2) if any such hazard was open and obvious; and (3) constructive notice of the defendants. The court also noted that the owner and tenant exercised control, ownership, and maintenance of the parking lot.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Serious Injury and Wrongful Death Victims and Families
If you are injured in a trip and fall accident, the Miami personal injury lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.