Premise Liability and the Obvious Danger Doctrine
In the premise liability context:
[T]he obvious danger doctrine provides that a landowner “is not liable for injuries to an invitee caused by a dangerous condition on the premises when the danger is known or obvious to the injured party….” However, this protection does not extend to situations where the landowner “should anticipate the harm despite the fact that the dangerous condition is open and obvious.” To determine whether the obvious danger doctrine applies, a court must “consider all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident and the alleged dangerous condition.”
Shipman v. CP Sanibel, LLC, 2019 WL 2301599, *4 (M.D.Fla. 2019) (internal citations omitted).
For example, in Shipman, the plaintiff was an invitee of a resort. She slipped and fell on water that accumulated on a non-slip resistant tile floor in an open-air lounge adjacent to the pool. Luckily, she didn’t hurt herself too much. However, that’s not the point. This resort should have taken more precautions to ensure none of their guests were at risk.
At the resort, there is a sign at the open-air lounge that advises patrons to towel off before walking on the tile. There is also usually a wet floor sign to warn patrons that the tile floor might be wet; however, on the day the plaintiff slipped, the wet floor sign was not present.
On a summary judgment motion in federal court, one issue was the application of the obvious danger doctrine. The trial court found that there was an issue of fact as to whether the obvious danger doctrine applied. Even if water on the tile in the open-air lounge was open and obvious, there was a factual issue as to whether the resort should have warned the plaintiff of the condition, i.e., the resort should have anticipated the harm that water on the lounge’s tile floor poses. This is supported by the fact that the resort usually has a wet floor sign to warn patrons of this fact, but did not have the sign on the date in question. Moreover, there was also a factual issue as to whether the resort kept its premises in a reasonably safe condition by allowing non-slip resistant tile to remain wet in a location adjacent to the pool. This can be very dangerous, especially when there are children running around the pool. This sort of negligence from the hotel could’ve resulted in an accident much worse. Luckily in this case, it didn’t.
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