Florida Appellate Court Decides Who is Responsible for Visual Obstructions

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If you get into a car accident due to a visual obstruction, you may wonder who is responsible for the injuries or damage caused by the accident. The Florida Third District Court of Appeals addressed this topic in a recent decision. It held that in this case, the people responsible for the foliage that the plaintiff alleged caused the obstruction could not be held responsible for damages from the accident. If you are injured in an accident, it may be difficult to know who can be held responsible for the conditions that caused the accident. That’s why it’s important to hire a skilled Florida car accident attorney to help you hold the appropriate parties responsible after an accident.

The Facts of the Case

A man riding a motorcycle was killed when he was hit by a car. The driver of the car blamed the fact that there were shrubs planted near the intersection and they obstructed her view. Thus, she sued the city of Hialeah, R.J. Behar & Company, Williams Paving Co., Inc., and Melrose Nursery. R.J. Behar & Company was the designer of the project that planned the layout of the intersection, including the shrubs. Williams Paving Company was the general contractor who was responsible for building the road and the swales, and Melrose Nursery actually planted the shrubs. The paving company, planner, and nursery moved for summary judgment. Summary judgment is granted when there are no genuine issues of material facts and one of the parties is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. That means that if the court grants the motion for summary judgment, the claims against the planner, paver, and nursery will be dismissed.

The “Slavin Doctrine” 

In their motion for summary judgment, the nursery, planner, and pavers all relied on the same argument: The Slavin Doctrine. The Slavin Doctrine protects contractors from third party liability when the work that they have done has been accepted by the owner of the property. However, this doctrine only applies when the defects are obvious. So if you are a homeowner and you hire someone to do work and the work later injures someone, the homeowner is responsible for the injuries only when the defect is obvious.

The Slavin Doctrine assumes that the property owner has made a reasonable inspection of the work before accepting it. Thus, if there are injuries or issues from the work, the homeowner has impliedly accepted responsibility for those defects. However, as noted above, in order for the defect to be considered “open and obvious,” it must meet a specific standard. The standard that the Slavin Doctrine uses is that the “dangerousness of the condition was obvious had the owner exercised reasonable care.”

Here, the court agreed with the planner, paver, and landscaper and granted their motion for summary judgment. They held that even if the shrubs were responsible for the accident, the placement and height of the shrubs were obvious to the city. Thus, under the Slavin Doctrine the contractors have no responsibility for the injuries, though the city ultimately may.

Contact an Experienced South Florida Car Accident Attorney Today!

If you have been injured in a vehicle accident, you should contact a South Florida car accident attorney as soon as you are able. The knowledgeable Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston can help you determine who should be liable for your accident. Call them at 772-266-555 or 561-299-3999 or use the contact form on this website to schedule your free, confidential consultation.

See Related Posts:
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Verdict in Favor of Car Accident Victim Upheld in Florida Fourth District Appellate Decision