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Permitting and Zoning Ordinances Are Irrelevant in a Premises Liability Case

When a private establishment causes a dangerous condition on a sidewalk or other public property, it can be tricky determining how liability should be apportioned. In a recent case, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal addressed the question of whether Miami-Dade County could be held liable for a fall that occurred when grease from a restaurant leaked onto a sidewalk. Though the plaintiff acknowledged that the county did not have actual notice of the condition, she argued that because county ordinances require the periodic inspection of restaurants, the county had legal liability for the injury. The trial court agreed and split the fault evenly between the restaurant and the county.

In Miami-Dade County v. Jones, the appellate court reversed the decision finding the county at fault and addressed pertinent premises liability issues, such as:

  • How long the condition existed — Plaintiff alleged that a discoloration in the sidewalk was evidence of a continuing problem with leaking restaurant grease. However, the Court of Appeal found that the cause of the discoloration was not determined and that the county had no reason to be aware of a grease problem.
  • Whether the existence of permitting or zoning rules created liability — As a permitted business, the restaurant was subject to inspections from county authorities. Because of this, plaintiff alleged that the county was on constructive notice of the hazard because it is something that should have been found during an inspection. This reasoning was rejected, and the county was held not liable for a failure to recognize this potential condition.
  • Sovereign immunity — Likewise, under sovereign immunity, the court cited precedent and held that a municipality could not be subject to damages for the failure to enforce an ordinance.

If you’ve suffered personal injury due to a slip and fall or another type of incident, an experienced Florida attorney can outline relevant premises liability law and how it affects your action. Frank Charles Miranda, P.A. assists clients with Florida personal injury matters. Please call 813-254-2637 or contact us online to schedule a meeting at our Tampa office.

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