In Ramsey v. Home Depot, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal explains that a property owner isn’t required to warn visitors about conditions that are “open and obvious” and not inherently dangerous.
Mrs. Ramsey was injured in an accident in a Home Depot parking lot when she tripped over the wheel stop at the front of the parking space where her car was parked. The 12 by 20 foot space was designated as “accessible” for disabled individuals. Ramsey later testified that she was carrying bags, a purse and her car keys when she approached the vehicle and tripped as she was trying to walk around the front of the car. She said her attention was focused on trying not to run into an accessibility sign and didn’t notice the wheel stop, which she said was painted the same color as the parking lot surface.
Ramsey sued Home Depot for negligence, alleging that the company failed to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn her of the hazards presented by the wheel stop. An engineer testified on her behalf at trial that placing the wheel stops in spaces designed for disabled persons made them “inherently dangerous” because they were a barrier to an otherwise flat, easily navigable surface. The trial court nevertheless granted the company’s motion for judgment. The trial judge found that any danger presented by the wheel stop was “open and obvious” and not inherently dangerous. As a result, the trial court said Home Depot had no duty to ward Ramsey of any hazard presented by the obstacle.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the First District agreed. “Although a property owner has a duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe manner for its invitees, there is no duty to warn against an open and obvious condition which is not inherently dangerous,” the court explained, citing the Fifth District Court of Appeals’ 2005 decision in Aaron v. Palatka Mall. The court further noted that wheel stops are visible and generally aren’t considered to present an “unreasonable” risk of harm. There was no evidence, the court said, on which to alter that analysis in this case. “This was not a situation where the wheel stop was located in a fire lane next to the sidewalk,” the court said “or a situation where the wheel stop was not centered between the parking stripes.” Nor were the weather conditions a factor, given that Ramsey testified that the accident happened on a sunny and clear day.
The court also said that Home Depot complied with its responsibility to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe manner. Photo evidence showed that the parking lot was in good shape, according to the court, and the company offered expert testimony concluding that the wheel stops weren’t inherently dangers, as well as in compliance with the standards set forth under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Meanwhile, the court found that Ramsey’s expert “offered only generalized, conclusory opinions” and didn’t base these conclusions on any legal requirements.
As this case makes clear, there are a number of legal issues to consider before suing s property owner for injuries sustained on the premises. If you were recently injured in an accident and are interested in pursuing a claim against the property owner of the premises where you were injured, call the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine today. We represent clients throughout the region, including in Hialeah, Coral Springs and Pompano Beach. You can reach our Ft. Lauderdale offices at 800-747-3733 or by filling out an on-line “Contact Us” form.
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