Dangerous Sidewalk: Who Is at Fault?
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 negligence.
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.