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The “Open and Obvious” Danger Doctrine in Florida

workoutThroughout the United States and the state of Florida, a number of people are injured every year through the use of dangerous products. Injuries can arise in a number of ways, from the user using the product incorrectly to the manufacturer failing to provide proper instructions. Injuries can range from minor to severe, and in the worst cases even death can happen. Under Florida law, if a user is injured because a manufacturer or seller negligently failed to ensure the user was aware of the potentials risks and hazards associated with the product, the manufacturer or seller may be held liable for the user’s injuries.

In Rodriguez v. Akal Security, the plaintiff was being held at a processing center after illegally entering the country. During his time there, he was injured at the center’s gym when he fell off the “ProMaxima Hip and Dip Combo,” a piece of exercise equipment allowing users to do dips on one side and chip ups on the other. The plaintiff was having trouble reaching the side of the machine used to do chin ups and decided to climb to on the side used for dips in order to reach the chin up bar. While attempting to reach the chin up bar, the plaintiff fell and sustained injuries. Akal Security provided security for the processing center at the time, and an Akal employee had seen the plaintiff climbing over the equipment but had failed to intervene.

The plaintiff sued Akal for negligence, alleging that its employees should have warned him about the potential dangers of the equipment. The U.S. District Court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the plaintiff had failed to establish a case for negligence under Florida law. The court noted that there is no duty to warn of an obvious condition, such as in this case.

The “open and obvious” danger defense is available for defendants to use in situations when a plaintiff acts in a manner that disregards ordinary caution in the face of a “known or obvious” dangerous condition. The test for whether the obvious danger doctrine applies is not whether the object that caused the injury is obvious, but rather whether the dangerous condition of the object is obvious. In other words, is the object inherently dangerous and one that would require disclaimers, warnings, or cautionary instructions?

Here, the court determined the danger of falling that arises from climbing on top of a machine is obvious to a reasonable person. Since the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care by failing to act how a prudent person would act in the same or a similar situation, he did not have a claim. In fact, the equipment was stationary with no moving parts or unknown hazards. Thus, the plaintiff should have been able to assess the risk of falling from simply looking at the apparatus.

If you’ve been injured through the use of a product, you may be entitled to seek compensation. Product liability cases can be complex, which is why contacting an experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand if you have a viable legal claim. Highly skilled Miami injury attorney Robert Dixon has helped countless clients throughout South Florida obtain the compensation they deserve for their injuries. To find out about your legal rights and options, contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878).

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Liability in Rental Car Accidents in Florida – Adams v. Bell Partners, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, June 23, 2014