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Open and Obvious Conditions – Tallent v Pilot Travel Centers

gas stationIf you are injured through a slip, trip, and fall on someone else’s property, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries. Property owners have an obligation to keep their premises in reasonably safe conditions to ensure that those who lawfully enter the land do not unduly injure themselves. There are very specific premises liability rules that govern slip and fall cases, which is why it is important to consult an experienced Miami injury attorney.

In Tallent v Pilot Travel Centers, the plaintiff fell on a fuel spill at a gas station and sued the gas station under the theory of negligence. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the negligent maintenance caused him to fall. Negligence is the failure to take proper care in doing something. The doctrine is intended to encourage individuals to act in a sensible and prudent manner so as not to cause foreseeable harm to others. The defendant claimed that the spill was open and obvious, and the company followed procedure to clean it up.

The Second DCA noted that because the plaintiff was a business invitee, he was owed two duties by the defendant:  the duty to use reasonable care in maintaining the property in a reasonably safe condition, and  the duty to warn of dangers that the owner knew or should have known about that were unknown by the invitee and could not have been known by the invitee through the exercise of reasonable care.

The plaintiff admitted that he saw the spill when he arrived at the service station. Specifically, he noticed the spill when he walked through trash cans that were blocking the area where the spill was on the way to the store. The Second DCA held that, since the plaintiff was aware of the spill, the defendant had no duty to warn the plaintiff. Thus, the trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

However, merely because the condition was open and obvious to the plaintiff doesn’t mean the inquiry ends. The court noted that there were still issues of fact to be decided, such as whether the defendant maintained the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Put another way, the plaintiff’s knowledge of the spill does not negate a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. The person who testified that the company followed proper cleaning procedures could not recall what had happened on the day of the spill. The size and extent of the spill was also in question. Some testimony from a station employee testified that the spill was over 20 gallons and spread approximately 40 feet from where it originated.

Since so many questions of fact were unresolved, the court reversed the summary judgment.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident, we can help. Robert Dixon is a highly experienced Miami premises liability lawyer who is committed to diligently representing clients across South Florida. Premises liability can be a complex area of law, and having the right attorney on your side can make all the difference in your case. If you would like for us to assess your situation, please feel free to contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Supreme Court Holds Law Firm Liable for Injuries when Client’s Chair Collapsed, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, October 15, 2014

Settlements in Car Accident Cases – Alamo Financing v. Mazoff, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, October 15, 2014

Slip and Falls Issues in Commercial Leases – Hillstone v. P.F. Chang’s, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, October 15, 2014