A Florida personal injury that occurs on someone else’s property can in some circumstances be compensated under the legal theory of premises liability. These theory opines that property owners owe varying degrees of duty to protect lawful visitors (and sometimes even lawful visitors) from unreasonable risk of harm. This could be a slip-and-fall, a dog bite, faulty stairs or negligent security resulting in vulnerability to a third-party criminal attack. One of the most common defenses in Florida premises liability lawsuits is the “open and obvious” doctrine.
Essentially, as noted in the Florida Supreme Court’s 1952 decision in Early v. Morrison Cafeteria Co. of Orlando, a business property owner has a legal right to assume those invited to the site will perceive potentially dangerous conditions that are open and obvious to the ordinary senses. One has a duty to avoid these open and obvious dangers, and a business has no responsibility to warn patrons of these dangers. It’s the concealed dangers – those the business knows or should know about – that require warning. In any case, business property owners do have a responsibility to use “ordinary care” in keeping the site reasonably safe.
One premises liability case recently weighed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit considered whether a teetering tower of rolled insulation at a hardware store customer loading area was an open and obvious hazard, or whether the business owed a legal duty to address or warn of the potential danger. Continue reading →