How Far Does The Duty To Keep The Premises Safe For An Invitee Extend?

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According to Florida case law as of the date of this article, the duty to keep the premises safe for an invitee extends to every part of the premises that are included in the invitation and that are necessary for the invitee to visit or use in the course of the business for which the invitation was extended, including places where the invitee’s presence should reasonably be expected and places where the invitee is allowed to go.

QUICK FACT: A victim of a property or business owner’s negligence has 4 years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit based on premises liability. However, if a death resulted from the incident, the deadline to file a lawsuit is 2 years.

See: Cardaman v. Sportatorium, Inc., 505 So. 2d 31 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist. 1987)

The Case of the Security Guard Falling From His Perch

James Cardaman worked the night shift as a security guard.  His job was to patrol the premises of the Sportatorium, to make sure everything was safe and secure.  James was responsible for both the buildings as well as the surrounding grounds.

One night, Security Guard Cardaman spotted a vehicle driving onto the Sportatorium property.  It was not authorized to be there, so he went to check things out.

James went into the complex’s main building.  He couldn’t see what was happening with the vehicle.  So, he decided to get higher so he would have a better sight line.  There was a scaffold there in the main building.

It was not there all the time.  The scaffold was part of the construction equipment that was being used in a renovation project.  It was pretty high.  It had no guardrail.

Deciding this scaffold provided a great vantage point to investigate the mystery vehicle, Security Guard Cardaman climbed up.  He fell.  There was no guardrail on the scaffold to protect him from falling.

Security Guard Cardaman filed a personal injury claim seeking damages for his accident. The Sportatorium would not negotiate a settlement, so he was forced to file a lawsuit.  The case went to trial, and the jury came back with a verdict in the guard’s favor.

The trial judge granted a motion for a directed verdict in favor of the Sportatorium, which the appeals court reversed once Security Guard Cardaman appealed that judge’s ruling.

The question was whether under Florida law, Security Guard James Cardaman was still an “invitee” of his employer when he went up the scaffold.  His employer argued that James exceeded the scope of his invitation when he climbed the scaffold.  The court did not agree.

It was acknowledged that James was “foolhardy” to go up that scaffold in the dark.  The jury recognized this when it held him comparatively negligent for his injuries.

However, being foolish did not take him outside the bounds of the invitation to be on the premises.

As a security guard, his assigned duties included protecting the safety and security of the building’s interior and exterior.  He saw it as part of his job; his climbing up to get a better view was not a “private misadventure of his own in a forbidden area.”

His reasoning, however “foolhardy,” was uncontroverted in the evidence.  The suggestion by the Sportatorium that he was climbing up there to hide from intruders was not accepted by the court.

In its ruling, the court relied upon the Florida Supreme Court’s explanation in Ire Florida Income Partners, Ltd. v. Scott,381 So.2d 1114 (Fla. 1st DCA 1979), cert. denied, 388 So.2d 1118 (Fla. 1980):

“[A]n owner … is liable for an injury sustained by a person, who entered the premises by invitation, … only where the part of the premises on which the injury was sustained was covered by the invitation. If a person, though on the premises by invitation, goes to a place not covered by the invitation, the owner’s duty of care owed to that person as invitee ceases forthwith.

The duty to keep the premises safe for invitees extends to all portions of the premises that are included in the invitation and that are necessary or convenient for the invitee to visit or use in the course of the business for which the invitation was extended.”

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