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Bernadette Denson v. SM-Planters Walk Apartments, Case No. 1D14-2950 (1st DCA)

In Denson, the plaintiff appealed a summary judgment entered in favor the property owner and property manager in her slip and fall case. The First District affirmed without comment the trial court’s finding that the defense had no duty to warn because of the obvious danger doctrine, but reversed the summary judgment as to the duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.

On June 9, 2012, the plaintiff slipped on a slick and glossy stair, which caused her to fall down the stairwell. The lawsuit followed. The defense later moved for summary judgment arguing that Home Depot receipts and deposition testimony of the maintenance supervisor established conclusively that the stairs had recently been painted with anti-skid materials. The plaintiff argued that the Home Depot receipts included items that were not anti-skid, and demonstrated that the defense had not purchased sufficient anti-skid materials to mix with the purchased paint. As such, the plaintiffs argued that material issues of fact existed as to whether the defense had misused the product applied to the stairs.

The First District noted that at the summary judgment stage, the moving party must conclusively show the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, and the trial court must draw “every possible inference” in favor of the non-moving party. “Even the slightest doubt as to the existence of such a question precludes summary judgment.” A negligence claim includes the following elements: (1) a duty to the plaintiff, (2) the defendant’s breach of that duty, (3) injury to the plaintiff arising from the defendant’s breach, and (4) damages caused by the injury to the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty. A business owner owes two duties to a business invitee. First, the owner has a duty to warn of perils that were known or should have been known to the owner and which the invitee could not discover. Second, the owner has a duty to take ordinary care to keep its premises reasonably safe. The First District noted that while “the fact that a danger is obvious discharges a landowner’s duty to warn, it does not discharge the landowner’s duty to maintain his premises.”

The First District found that the record evidence created a factual dispute as to whether the defense maintained their premises in a reasonably safe condition, and as such, reversed.

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