A festival-goer who tripped and fell at a South Florida renaissance fair will be allowed to take her case to trial, after the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment favoring the defense.
In Cook v. Bay Area Renaissance Festival of Largo Inc., it was determined by the appellate panel that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether defendant was exercising control over the area where plaintiff was injured and because the issue of whether the accident was foreseeable is a question for the jury, not the judge. For this reason, the appeals court reversed trial court on the question of summary judgment.
All property owners/operators owe guests a duty of care to keep property reasonably safe. If a condition arises that poses a danger, property owners who know or should know about it owe either a duty to immediately address it or to warn people about it.
In the Cook case, the primary question necessary to answer in determining whether the case could survive summary judgment was the degree to which defendant had control of the property on which injury occurred. According to court records, plaintiff arrived at the festival, hosted by the defendants on city-owned property, and was directed by volunteers of the festival to park in a nearby parking lot. An unpaved walkway exists on a patch of land owned by the city, between where the festival was being held and where this overflow parking lot was located.
A police officer was directing traffic to help patrons cross the road from the parking lot to the festival.
Plaintiff attended the festival, but was injured on her way back. She allegedly tripped on a piece of exposed pipe on the unpaved walkway. As a result, she cut her foot.
There was nothing that obstructed her view of the pipe, and in fact, her husband and several other patrons tried to warn her seconds before she came in contact with it.
After the incident occurred, an employee of defendant removed the pipe without getting permission from the city/land owner.
Plaintiff sued the festival company, alleging it failed to maintain the property in a safe condition.
Testimony was conflicting about whether a festival volunteer had directed patrons to use the unpaved walkway in the first place.
Trial court granted summary judgment to defense after accepting the argument that defendant had no control over the property where the fall occurred.
Plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court reversed. The court noted previous decisions in which courts had found ownership and title of a property in these cases irrelevant. What is more the question is who has control over the premises in question. Whoever has control of the property owes the duty to keep it in repair.
Here, there was a substantial amount of evidence to prove the festival was using the overflow lot. Testimony was conflicting about whether festival workers intended for patrons to use the unpaved walkway to get to the festival. What’s more, the festival worker’s action in removing the pipe without consulting with the land owner further supports the notion that festival company was in control of the property.
All these facts combine to suggest the company had control over the relevant property. Thus, plaintiff should be allowed to have her case heard by a jury.
If you have been injured in a fall accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Cook v. Bay Area Renaissance Festival of Largo Inc., May 8, 2015, Florida Second District Court of Appeal
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Florida Theme Parks Report First-Quarter Injuries, May 5, 2015, Naples Injury Lawyer Blog