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Eleventh Circuit rules that Florida’s recreational use statute, Fla. Stat. § 375.251, applies to all visitors of qualifying recreation areas regardless of the visitor’s status, including business visitors

On April 27, 2021, in Fisher v. United States, No. 19-13626, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a U.S. district court’s order dismissing a premises liability action involving a slip and fall accident at a public beach located on federal property adjacent to Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Florida. The issues on appeal included the interpretation and applicability of Fla. Stat. § 375.251, which protects owners of outdoor recreation areas against ordinary premises liability in tort. As relevant here, the statute provides that if a landowner opens its land to the public for outdoor recreational purposes, it incurs “no duty of care to keep that area safe for entry or use by others,” no “duty of care toward a person who goes on the area,” and no “duty . . . to give warning to persons entering . . . that area of any hazardous conditions.” The plaintiff, who was a civilian employee at the Air Force Base, argued that that Florida’s recreational-use statute does not protect landowners against suits by so-called “business visitor” invitees, a legal term of art that refers to those invited onto land for reasons related to business. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, holding that the statute “means exactly what it says—that an owner incurs no ordinary duty of care to, and no duty to warn, any entrant, regardless of his common-law status or reason for entry.”