Appellate Court Addresses Duty of Care in Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Florida Lodge

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida wrongful death lawsuit against a hospitality company. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

According to the court’s opinion, the resort provided guests with a shuttle service to take them to various locations within two miles of the lodge, including across U.S. Highway 1. Additionally, it provided guests with a golf cart service to take guests around the property; however, the golf carts were prohibited from traveling on public roads. There was an exception that allowed the golf cart to cross Old Highway 1 to pick up and drop off guests on the east side of U.S. Highway 1.

The case involved a guest at the hotel lodge who got into a golf cart and asked a staff member for a ride. The staff member agreed, but did not know the man’s destination. However, while they were in the cart, the man asked the staff member to take him to the trading post on U.S Highway 1. Following the hotel’s policy, the staff member drove the guest across Old Highway 1, about twenty feet from U.S. Highway 1. As the guest was exiting the golf cart, a vehicle hit him. He died shortly after filing a negligence lawsuit against the vehicle driver and lodge. The executor of the man’s estate amended the complaint to assert a wrongful death claim against the defendants.

The lodge asserted that their conduct did not create a foreseeable risk. Its transportation policy did not establish a duty to transport guests by golf cart. It did not breach a duty to the victim, and the danger of crossing a busy highway was open and obvious. On appeal, amongst other issues, the court analyzed whether the lodge possessed a duty of care to the victim.

Generally, under Florida law, whether a defendant owes a duty of care to a plaintiff is a question of law. In analyzing this question, courts will typically evaluate whether the defendant created a “foreseeable zone of risk” such that the defendant created a duty of care to a victim. In cases where the defendant creates a foreseeable zone of risk, the law generally recognizes the defendant’s duty to mitigate the risk or take precautions to protect others from the risk’s harm.

In this case, the record shows that the lodge operated different transportation services, the lodge did not own property on the other side of U.S. Highway 1, and the golf cart, in issue, was prohibited from crossing into public roads, besides Old Highway 1 to drop off guests. In this case, they found that the staff member followed the lodge’s policies, and the victim’s actions of stepping out of the golf cart to cross the highway were voluntary. Therefore, the appellate court ultimately agreed with the trial court that the lodge did not create a foreseeable risk by dropping the guest off, and they did not owe the victim a duty of care to protect against the danger of crossing the highway.

Have You Suffered Injuries Because of a Negligent Florida Hotel?

If you have recently lost a loved one due to the negligence of another individual or company, contact the Law Offices of Robert Dixon. We have successfully obtained compensation on behalf of our clients in all types of Florida wrongful death cases. We understand the devastating financial, physical, and emotional toll that car and truck accidents, slip and falls, and defective products can have on a person and their loved ones. Contact our office at 877-499-4878 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.

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