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Florida Fourth DCA reverses trial court’s summary judgment for defendant in premises liability case, finds genuine issue of material fact in dispute as to whether owner knew or had reason to know the invitee was ill or injured and failed to seek medical assistance for him

On January 15, 2020, in Bryan v. Galley Maid Marine Products, Inc., No. 4D18-3699, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed a summary judgment entered by the trial court for the defendant in a premises liability case. The plaintiff claimed that he was attacked twice by a third party while they were both after-hours invited guests at the defendant’s business and that the defendant negligently violated a duty of care to him by not seeking medical care for him after the first attack. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was a licensee on the premises, not an invited guest, and that the only duty to him was to refrain from wanton negligence, willful misconduct, or intentionally exposing the plaintiff to danger. Although the defendant allegedly did nothing to help the plaintiff after the first attack, the trial court concluded that there was no “special relationship” between the plaintiff and the defendant because he was not a customer of the business, the first attack by the third party was unforeseeable to the defendant, and it would constitute an impermissible stacking of inferences to conclude that the second attack would not have occurred if 911 had been called after the first attack. The Fourth DCA concluded that the plaintiff was in fact an invitee, quoting from Charterhouse Assocs., Ltd., Inc. v. Valencia Reserve Homeowners Ass’n, Inc., 262 So. 3d 761, 765 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018) to define an invitee as “anyone present on a premises via express or reasonably implied invitation of the property owners.” The Court noted that the Florida Supreme Court has also eliminated the distinction between business visitors and social guests, applying the single standard of reasonable care to both. See Wood v. Camp, 284 So. 2d 691, 695 (Fla. 1973). The Fourth DCA cited previous caselaw for the principle that a property owner has no duty to protect one on his premises from criminal attack by a third person except that if the attack is “reasonably foreseeable”, a duty may arise between the owner and his invitee. See e.g., Las Olas Holding Co. v. Demella, 228 So. 3d 97, 103 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017) (quoting Leitch v. City of Delray Beach, 41 So. 3d 411, 412 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010)) (“[a] property owner is ordinarily under no duty to exercise any care to warn or guard against the harmful acts of a third party unless that third party’s harmful behavior is reasonably foreseeable.” The Court concluded that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the second attack was reasonably foreseeable. The Fourth DCA also concluded that genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the defendant had a duty to render or call for aid after the attacks, noting its previous ruling that “that a proprietor is under an ordinary duty of care to render aid to an invitee after he knows or has reason to know the invitee is ill or injured.” Estate of Starling v. Fisherman’s Pier, Inc., 401 So. 2d 1136, 1138 (Fla. 4th DCA 1981).

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