In Rodriguez v. Akal Security, a federal court in Florida explains that while state negligence law imposes a duty to warn others about dangerous situations in certain circumstances, it does not impose such a duty where the danger is obvious.
Pedro Rodriguez was injured in an accident while using gym equipment at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, where he was being held as an inmate after entering the country illegally from Mexico. He had previously been deported to his home country and was detained at Krome after being picked up by police in Indian River County.
Akal Security, Inc. provided security at the detention center under a contract with the federal government. Two Akal employees were on duty at the gym when Rodriguez was injured after misusing a ProMaxima Hip and Dip Combo apparatus. One side of the ProMaxima is for “dip” exercises in which a user grips handle bars more than four-and-a-half feet above the ground and lowers and raises himself by bending at the elbows. The other side is designed for “chin up” exercises, in which the user hangs from handle bars perched more than 7-and-a-half feet above the ground and pulls himself up so that his chin reaches the bars. The chin up side also includes stairs to allow users to reach the handle bars.
Rodriguez claimed that he was not able to reach the chin up handle bars, however, even by using the stairs. So, on the day of the accident, he approached the dip side of the ProMaxima and hoisted himself up so that his feet were on the handle bars. Rodriguez then attempted to climb over the top of the machine in order to use the chin up side. He fell from the ProMaxima in the process and was injured. Rodriguez claimed that one of the Akal employees on duty saw him climbing the machine and did not intervene, instead yelling “superman” before Rodriguez fell to the floor.
Rodriguez later sued Akal for negligence, alleging that its employees should have warned him that climbing the ProMaxima was dangerous. He asserted that he had never seen anyone else use the apparatus before the accident and did not realize that he was using it improperly.
Granting summary judgment to the company, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida found that Rodriguez failed to establish a claim for negligence under state law. Specifically, the court rejected Rodriguez’s claim that the Akal employees had a duty to instruct him on the proper use of the ProMaxima or warn him that climbing over the apparatus was dangerous. “As a matter of Florida law, there is no duty to warn of an obvious danger,” the court explained. “Here, the obvious danger of falling that arises from climbing to the top of the ProMaxima is apparent to any reasonable individual.” The court further observed that there was nothing inherently dangerous about the apparatus triggering a responsibility to show Rodriguez how to use it safely, noting that it is a “simple” stationary piece of equipment with no moving parts.
The South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine have vast experience representing clients throughout the region, including in Ft. Lauderdale, Hialeah and Coral Springs, in negligence and other personal injury actions. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, call us at 800-747-3733 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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