An appeals court recently issued a decision in a plaintiff’s appeal of a final judgment motion in favor of a construction company. The plaintiff filed a Florida premises liability lawsuit against a construction company for injuries he suffered from falling into a drain. The plaintiff worked as an electrical subcontractor for a project the construction company was overseeing. There were approximately a hundred drains on the construction site, and depending on the phase of construction, the drains would be covered or uncovered. The plaintiff’s work on the site was sporadic, and he was at the site about a week before the incident leading to the lawsuit. On the day of the accident, it was bright outside, but the interior lighting was about thirty percent below the average level. When the plaintiff opened a door, dust from grinding work and the light blinded him, and he fell into the drain.
The plaintiff sued the construction company, arguing that they were negligent for failing to keep the premises safe. At trial, the defendant successfully argued that they were entitled to summary judgment because the drain was an open and obvious danger. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that there were genuine material fact issues.
In Florida, property owners and occupiers owe business invitees, such as the plaintiff, the duty to use reasonable care in maintaining the property. Further, they must warn of dangers the owner knew or should have known about, and which the invitee does not know about and cannot discover through reasonable care. There are exceptions for dangers, which are “open and obvious.” Under the open and obvious doctrine, a property owner is not liable for dangerous conditions when the condition is obvious or known, unless the owner should anticipate the danger and injuries.