One afternoon in 2012, an 11-year-old girl and her family set out to play miniature golf at a Florida resort. According to the complaint later filed in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, the girl’s golf ball landed in an adjacent pond and she reached into the water to grab it. Unbeknownst to her or her family, the resort had recently paid an unlicensed employee to work on submersible pumps, electrical wires and breakers in that same pond. Her family watched in horror as she was electrocuted.
At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, our experienced premises liability attorneys represent injury victims throughout Southwest Florida, including Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral and Port Chatlotte. We know this is yet another tragic example of what can happen when property owners cut corners and perform inadequate maintenance of structures and systems on site.
Property owners and managers should anticipate certain structures and systems may degrade or begin to fail over time. To avoid such conditions resulting in an unreasonable risk of injury, property owners have a duty to ensure repairs are conducted promptly and properly. That means not cutting corners. It means using reasonable care to identify hazards on site and expeditiously hiring an experienced and (if necessary) licensed repair service to mitigate the risk.Florida Property Owner Maintenance Responsibilities
Florida legislators recognized the importance of requiring property owners to maintain their premises in reasonably safe condition, and there are numerous statutes that address this point.
One example is codified in F.S. §83.51 . This statute requires residential landlords to comply with applicable building, housing and health codes at all times. Even when no such codes are applicable, landlords must adequately maintain:
- Exterior Walls;
- All other structural components.
These items have to be kept “in good repair” and be “capable of resisting normal forces and loads.” Additionally, common areas have to be kept clean and safe.
Similarly, F.S. §1001.42 holds that district school boards must provide proper supervision of construction, make or contract for additions, alterations and building repairs and provide adequately for the proper maintenance and upkeep of school facilities so that students can attend without encountering physical hazards.
In the same vein, condo associations are required under F.S. §718.111 to maintain property insurance and provide for the reconstruction, repair or replacement of common-area property pursuant to the policy or bylaws of the organization.
Additionally, Florida Building Codes set forth the standards for repair and modification of existing structures, which often include the requirement that such maintenance work be inspected for final approval.
There are also requirements for property owners to keep smoke detectors in good working order, in accordance with NFPA 72. A failure to adhere to this statute that results in injury would likely be considered negligence due to inadequate maintenance.
Evidence of property owner violations of Florida statutes or building codes in maintenance and repair are admissible in court, and can help bolster your premises liability lawsuit.Recognizing Negligent Maintenance in Florida
Injured persons may not at first recognize the injury was a result of negligent maintenance.
Some examples of inadequate maintenance or negligent maintenance in Florida include:
- Loose handrails;
- Slippery floors;
- Mechanical failures;
- Obstructed walkways;
- Uneven or broken stairs;
- Broken locks or windows;
- Loose ceiling or floor tiles;
- Broken windows or glass;
- Overgrown vegetation;
- Unrepaired fixtures;
- Lack of security cameras in a dangerous neighborhood.
Evidence of prior complaints to the property owner for such conditions can be presented in court as evidence in a premises liability claim.
In some cases, property owners facing inadequate or negligent maintenance claims will file a cross-motion (usually against the repair company) seeking to reduce liability through comparative fault. Defendants will assert some other third party was wholly or partially responsible for dangerous condition resulting in injury. It’s important plaintiffs have an experienced premises liability lawyer who can help thoroughly investigate all relevant facts to identify all potential defendants so damages aren’t ultimately reduced by the comparative fault of a person or business not named in the lawsuit.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury on commercial property in Southwest Florida, contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation