A slip and fall can happen at any time. In some cases, it is the fault
of no one but the victim. In others, however, in the case of a slip and
fall on a sidewalk, it is the result of another individual or entity’s
So who is responsible if you are injured in a slip and fall due to someone
else’s negligence? Who is going to pay your medical bills, compensate
your for time taken off work, and pay for your pain and suffering? Those
questions are not as easily answered as you may hope. Florida law is complex
on this issue, so below is a short discussion on sidewalk damage liability.
Florida Sidewalk Liability Laws
It is a pillar of personal injury law that people and organizations have
a duty to act reasonably as protections against causing injuries to others.
That duty extends to maintaining public and private places where the public
frequent in a reasonably safe condition. But the maintenance of a public
sidewalk presents an interesting issue because while it is a public walkway,
it is also connected to personal property. And property owners can impact
the safety of sidewalks through plant overgrowth, trees, or other activities.
The history of this issue goes back to 1953 when the city of Palatka tried
to pass an ordinance that waived their liability for any injuries that
happened due to a poorly maintained sidewalk. But this was upsetting to
victims of personal injury due to a dangerous sidewalk, and one injured
victim took his case to the Florida Supreme Court. In the case of
Woods v. City of Palatka, the Florida Supreme Court took on the issued and settled the debate of
whether cities are liable for poorly maintained sidewalks.
In that case, the Supreme Court decided that a city cannot shirk its duty
to maintain a safe public sidewalk, and declared the ordinance void. The
court announced that maintaining safe sidewalks is a proprietary function
of the city, and such could not be waived. But the court did leave room
for a city to share the responsibilities with private property owners.
When Property Owners Are Liable
Ultimately, property owners in Florida are not automatically liable for
injuries sustained on a public sidewalk. But under certain circumstances
they can be. In the case of
Schupbach v. City of Sarasota a Florida appellate court interpreted the law to mean that a private property
owner is not liable for accidents due to a dangerous public sidewalk shared
with the owner unless the city passes an ordinance that creates a private
right of action against property owners for poorly maintaining a public sidewalk.
So What Do You Do?
If you are injured after walking on a sidewalk that was poorly maintained
or dangerous, what do you do? The first thing you should do is contact
us. At The Pittman Firm we represent victims of accidents and injuries.
We will evaluate your case and let you know what your legal options are.