Trip and fall cases are very similar to slip and fall cases in legal analysis. A landowner owes an invitee a duty to: (1) “use ordinary care in keeping the premises in a reasonably safe condition,” and (2) “give timely warning of latent or concealed perils which are known or should be known by the owner or occupier.” Krol v. City of Orlando, 778 So. 2d 490, 492 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001).
If a plaintiff can prove that a legal duty existed to the injured person, a plaintiff will then have to prove that the trip caused the injuries and then how the person was damaged by the injuries. Causation is relatively straightforward, especially if the injured person had no injuries prior to the fall. Damages is typically proven by medical records, medical bills, lost income, loss of enjoyment of life, and expected future medical expenses.
Even if a plaintiff can prove a (1) a duty owed towards them, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages, a defendant in a trip and fall case will often rely on the open and obvious danger doctrine to try to avoid liability for the injuries suffered.
This doctrine states provides that an owner or possessor of land is not liable for injuries to an invitee caused by a dangerous condition on the premises when the danger is known or obvious to the injured party, unless the owner or possessor should anticipate the harm despite the fact that the dangerous condition is open and obvious. This doctrine rests upon the generally accepted notion that owners and possessors of real property should be legally permitted to assume that those entering their premises will perceive conditions that are open and obvious to them upon the ordinary use of their senses. In order to determine whether the doctrine applies in a given case, the courts are required to consider all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident and the alleged dangerous condition. Aaron v. Palatka Mall, LLC, 908 So.sd 574 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005).
In Parker v. Shelmar Property Owner’s Association, Inc., 44 Fla. L. Weekly D1601 (Fla. 5th DCA 2019), the court precluded entry of summary judgment on the basis of the open and obvious danger doctrine. Parker had tripped and fell over a wheel stop (bumper) in a parking lot maintained by defendants. The Court stated, “Here, Appellant claimed that the placement of the wheel stop near or at the egress of the building created an unreasonably dangerous condition. Her expert’s affidavit supported this claim. Specifically, her expert opined that the placement of the wheel stop constituted a dangerous condition in violation of the Florida Building Code and industry safety standards. Evidence of a building code violation is prima facie evidence of negligence.”
As such, even though it was an obvious danger, there was still a material issue of fact whether the defendant violated the duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.
If you’ve been injured by tripping over an object on someone else’s property, give us a call today at 813.397.3965 for your free consultation. We’d love to see if we can help you get compensated for your injuries!