The recent decision in Skala v. Lyons Heritage Corp., et al., 38 Fla L. Weekly D2485b (Fla. 2d DCA Nov. 27, 2013), provides a cautionary tale to contractors regarding maintaining construction sites. Robert Skala, a tile setter, was asked by Lyons Heritage Corp., the general contractor, to provide an estimate to correct tile work in a partially constructed home. While entering the home through the garage, Skala tripped and fell on construction debris injuring both of his arms. Skala brought suit against the general contractor for negligence as a result of the incident. The trial court granted the general contractor’s motion for summary judgment finding the construction debris was an open and obvious condition such that the general contractor could not be held liable for Skala’s injuries.
While Florida courts have consistently held an owner or possessor of land is not liable for injuries to an invitee caused by open and obvious dangerous conditions, an exception applies if the owner or possessor can and should foresee that such dangerous conditions will cause harm despite their obviousness. Ahl v. Stone Sw., Inc., 666 So. 2d 922, 923 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995). Additionally, the above exception applies if the possessor or owner knows the invitee will encounter the dangerous conditions because the advantages of facing the dangerous condition outweigh the apparent risks.
The Second District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s final summary judgment finding the general contractor was the possessor of the partially constructed home and, as such, owed Skala, whom was a business invitee, a duty, as a matter of law, to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. See Strickland v. Timco Aviation Servs., Inc., 66 So. 3d 1002, 1006 (Fla 1st DCA 2011). The District Court further found a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the general contractor should have anticipated Skala would enter the home through the construction debris littered garage to perform his job precluding the entry of summary judgment.
In summary, the Skala case presents an excellent example of safety and maintenance procedures that should be followed by contractors on a construction site. Many construction contracts require contractors and subcontractors to perform daily safety and maintenance inspections. If you have a question regarding safety and maintenance requirements in your construction contract, please contact the Construction Law Division of the Florida law firm of Cole, Scott & Kissane, P.A.
: The general contractor was not entitled to workers’ compensation immunity since Skala was an independent contractor and was present at the home only to provide an estimate.