A Florida appellate court recently addressed the following issue: could a bank be liable after a woman fell in a hole in a construction zone on the bank’s property?
The facts of the case are as follows. A woman drove to a Florida bank to make a deposit through the drive-thru teller. Upon her arrival, she realized that the bank was closed. She decided to make the deposit through the bank’s outdoor ATM. Once she parked, she noticed that the area was under construction, since there was a barricade in front of the ATM and a sign directing customers to walk around it. As the woman walked around, she stepped in a pothole, which caused her to fall and sustain injuries. She had not seen the pothole but conceded that there was nothing precluding her from looking down and seeing it.
The woman then filed a lawsuit against the bank as well as its general contractor, alleging a breach of the duty to warn and a breach of the duty to maintain a safe location. The bank moved for summary judgment based on the “open and obvious” doctrine. The woman responded by claiming that the condition was not open and obvious, and even if it had been, the bank would still be liable.
The “open and obvious” danger defense is appropriate when a plaintiff acts in a manner that disregards ordinary caution in the face of a “known or obvious” hazardous condition. When determining if the open and obvious doctrine should apply, the court will ask whether the condition is one that would require disclaimers, warnings, or cautionary instructions.
The appeals court ruled in favor of the woman, rather than the bank. The court stated while an open and obvious danger would discharge the bank’s duty to warn the woman, it would not discharge the bank’s duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. As a result, the defendants could still be liable for failing to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe manner.
It is also important to note that the woman was an invitee. An invitee is someone who enters property for a business purpose, such as a customer. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care. When it comes to invitees, property owners must not only maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition but also provide timely notice of any hidden dangers of which the property owner knows or should know. Here, the property owners may be liable based on how long the pothole was there, which would have given them actual or constructive notice of its existence.
If you or someone close to you has been hurt in a slip and fall accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our skilled Miami premises liability attorneys can consider the merits of your case and determine whether or not you may have a viable claim. We understand that sustaining any type of injury in an accident can be extremely stressful, which is why we offer compassionate representation at every step of the way. To discuss your case in more detail, do not hesitate to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.
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