When A Walkway Isn't A Walkway

Florida's 5th District Court of Appeal recently held that a tire store was not liable to a customer who tripped on a stump while walking through a raised planting bed on the tire store’s property. Dampier v. Morgan Tire & Auto, LLC, 82 So.3d 204 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012). This case addressed a question of premises liability which deals with a legal action which supports that a property owner has a duty to make sure that their property is safe for visitors.

In the Dampier case, the Plaintiff, while having his car serviced at the defendant’s tire store, walked to a nearby restaurant. In doing so, the Plaintiff took a shortcut through a raised planting bed which he alleged was a “clearly defined walking path” and a shortcut to the public sidewalk. In response to the law suit, the defendant moved for summary judgment seeking to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit.

The Court of Appeals ruled that it was not a “dangerous condition” for the stump to be in the planting bed. Since it was not a dangerous condition, the tire store would not be liable for any damages that arose in relation to the stump. According to The Court of Appeals, the tire store did not fail to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. The court also said that the tire store owner was not liable for failure to warn, since he had no duty to warn the plaintiff of potential dangers associated with walking on the planting bed.

Often times, visitors of stores or restaurants will travel through a path in order to take a shortcut believing that the path is a walkway. However, should a person be injured as a result of traveling down that shortcut the law may not support that the property owner should be held liable for any injuries. This personal injury case analysis will take into consideration whether the walkway was truly a walkway.