Florida Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment for Defendants in Parking Lot Trip and Fall Case

parking lot grassIn Grimes v. Family Dollar Stores of Florida, Inc., the plaintiff brought a premises liability lawsuit against a shopping center after suffering injuries in the parking lot. On the day of the incident, the plaintiff arrived at the shopping center parking lot, intending to shop at Family Dollar. The parking lot is separated by two rows of curbed landscape areas with paved walkways for pedestrians throughout the parking lot. The landscaped improvements feature dirt, grass, trees, and re-bar tree tie-downs. They are also bordered by concrete curbs. Companies that own businesses in the shopping center hire a third party to oversee and perform the landscaping activities in those improvements.

The plaintiff was traversing the parking lot on her way to the Family Dollar entrance when she tripped on a piece of re-bar that was protruding from the ground and that was not secured to any shrubs or trees. According to her complaint, the plaintiff suffered an injury to her knee when she fell. Among the claims she asserted against the shopping center defendants, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, in failing to correct a dangerous condition about which the defendants should have known, and in failing to warn the plaintiff about the latent dangerous condition located in a commonly traversed pathway.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. After a hearing on the motion, the trial court ruled in the defendants’ favor and dismissed the action. According to the court, the undisputed evidence showed that the plaintiff suffered an injury while walking in an area that was not intended to be used as a walkway. Earlier case precedent held that a landowner does not have a duty to compensate visitors for injuries that occur when they walk on a surface that is not designed for walking, like a planter bed.

On appeal, the  Third District Court of Appeal noted that some evidence in the record suggested that the planter bed in which the plaintiff fell had become a “well-trampled dirt footpath used by” guests. According to the court, the issue was whether the defendants allowed the trampled footpath to exist for a sufficient time period to provide the constructive notice of its existence. This created material issues of fact regarding whether the footpath was a dangerous condition, whether its dangerous nature was open and obvious, and whether the defendants knew or should have known about its potentially dangerous nature. Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s order granting summary judgment and remanded the action.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries due to a property owner’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. At Lusk, Drasites, and Tolisano, our premises liability lawyers have assisted numerous Southwest Florida victims with seeking the compensation they deserve. Our compassionate and knowledgeable team offers a free consultation to discuss your situation and to help you determine a course of action for your family and you. We proudly serve clients in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Naples. Call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.

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