While a property owner may be liable for injuries caused in an accident on the premises, Florida law generally provides a defense for owners claiming that the dangerous condition causing the accident was “open and obvious.” In Wieder v. King Cole Condominium Association, the Third District Court of Appeal explains the limits on this defense as applied to a Florida condominium association.
The plaintiff was injured in an accident when she tripped and fell in the common area of the condo building in which she owned a unit. According to the plaintiff, she was going back to her unit after taking her dog for a walk when her foot got caught in an area of the hallway carpet that had buckled after being cleaned. She injured her arm, hand and neck.
The plaintiff sued the condo association for negligence, claiming that she and other unit owners had previously complained to it about the buckling carpet. She further asserted that it was the association’s duty to keep the common area safe and that it failed to do so.
The association, on the other hand, countered by arguing that the buckling carpet was a known and obvious condition of which the plaintiff should have steered clear. A trial court agreed, finding that she was aware of the defective carpet because she had previously walked over it to take her dog out, and granting summary judgment to the association as a result.
The Third District reversed the decision on appeal, however. The court compared the matter to its 1997 decision in Lotto v. Point East Two Condominium Corporation, in which it ruled that a condo association may be liable for its failure to maintain a cracked sidewalk, even where the injured unit owner had walked over the damaged area several times prior to her accident. In that case, the court explained “there remained a factual issue whether the association should anticipate that condominium residents would use the sidewalk and proceed to encounter the cracked and uneven concrete, notwithstanding that the condition was obvious…”
In the present case, the plaintiff testified that she had noticed the buckled carpet and tried to avoid it on several occasions prior to her accident. Because she also claimed that she and other owners complained about the carpet to the association and that it failed to take any action, the court said that a jury question remained as to whether the association should have expected unit owners to continue to try to traverse the dangerous area. In reaching the decision, the court nevertheless acknowledged that the plaintiff may have been comparatively negligent in attempting to walk over the affected area of the carpet in spite of its open an obvious condition.
If you were recently injured in an accident at a condominium property, call the South Florida condo accident lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. We represent clients throughout the region, including in Boca Raton, Hialeah and Pompano Beach, and offer a free initial consultation from our Fort Lauderdale offices. Call the firm today at 800-747-3733 or fill out an on-line “Contact Us” form.
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