In the case of Jayann Contardi as next friend of B.C. v. Fun Town, LLC, Cases Number 5D18-3518 (Fla. 5th DCA September 27, 2019), Florida’s Fifth DCA upheld a summary judgment in favor of a skating rink stating that uneven floors alone are an open and obvious danger where there is no liability in Florida.
Facts Of The Case
BC sustained an injury when she stepped off the skating rink, catching one of her skates on the lip between the rink floor and the floor of the business (the step up that is at most or all skating rinks to mark off the skating area from the lobby). She broke her leg.
She sued the skating rink for having an “improper and unmarked charge in elevation between the skating rink floor and the building’s sub floor.” Her lawsuit also alleged that the skating rink failed to provided a warning of this dangerous condition.
The trial court granted a summary judgment in favor of the skating rink finding that the change in elevation was an open and obvious condition for which there is no legal liability. There was also testimony that she had previously exited the skating rink onto the floor with no problems.
Multiple Floor Levels Are Not Inherently Dangerous Conditions
The Fifth DCA upheld the summary judgment holding that a change in floor levels (i.e. a step up) is an open and obvious condition that does not create liability by itself. The Fifth DCA also held that a low light condition combined with a step up did not create legal liability.
This opinion contains a lot of case citations that can be used by a lawyer to determine whether your particular case is a good one or not. I have boiled these references down to these points:
- Casby v. Flint, 520 So. 2d 281, 282 (Fla. 1988)(holding that “[m]ultiple floor levels . . . are not inherently dangerous conditions. They are so commonplace that the possibility of their existence is known to all. Warning of such common conditions goes beyond the duty of reasonable care owed to the invitee”)
- City of Melbourne v. Dunn, 841 So. 2d 504, 505 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003) (“An owner of land is not required to give an invitee warning of an obvious danger, and is entitled to assume an invitee will perceive something obvious.”)
- Bowles v. Elkes Pontiac Co., 63 So. 2d 769, 772 (Fla. 1952) (holding, in a negligence case against a corporate defendant for injuries sustained by a plaintiff in a fall in an automobile showroom, that “[i]t was the duty of the invitee to see that which would be obvious to her upon the ordinary use of her senses”)(“It is a matter of general knowledge that there are multiple steps in hotels, restaurants, storerooms and other business establishments throughout Florida . . . .”)
- Hogan v. Chupka, 579 So. 2d 395, 396 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991) (holding, in a negligence case against a store, that a “change in floor levels alone generally does not constitute a dangerous condition”)
- Schoen v. Gilbert, 436 So. 2d 75, 76 (Fla. 1983) (“[T]he amount of interior lighting cannot transform a difference in floor levels into an inherently dangerous condition.”)
Duty To Maintain Premises In A Reasonably Safe Condition
Although the Fifth DCA held that there was no evidence provided to support a breach of the duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition, my opinion is that the plaintiff in this case would have lost that issue as well on summary judgment unless the skating rink lip itself was in disrepair. Again, there was no evidence presented to that effect.
Your Florida Slip and Fall Case
When you have been injured in a slip and fall accident in Florida, you should talk to a lawyer to see if your case is winnable. Every case is different and there may be a perspective that sheds light on how the injury could have been prevented.
For instance, with this particular case, it is not known whether there was a settlement offer or whether the plaintiff was required to go all the way through a trial without any offer whatsoever. You should keep in mind that “winnable” in a personal injury case also means that you can settle it.