Can a Landowner Be Held Responsible for An Accident Caused As a Result of Foliage on the Premises That Impaired the Driver's View ?
In Whitt v. Silverman, 788 So. 2d 210 (Fla. 2001), the court held that the landowner owed a duty of care to a pedestrian who was injured in an automobile accident as a result of foliage on the premises that impaired the driver's view of the sidewalk, thus causing or contributing to the accident.
In dismissing the defendant's assertion in Whitt that the focus should be on the motorist and not the landowner, the court explained:
The landowner here asserts that if this Court recognizes any duty on his part, landowners will in essence be delegated the role of insurers for motorists using their adjoining roadways and that imposing this duty will relieve motorists of their established duty of care.
However, as has been noted quite often, the imposition of a duty is nothing more than a threshold requirement that if satisfied, merely opens the "courthouse doors."
Once this duty is satisfied, an injured party must still prove the remaining elements of a negligence claim, including the much more specific proximate cause requirement.
Hence, the burden remains with a claimant to establish the elements of a negligence claim against a defendant-landowner before being entitled to recover damages.
Moreover, the imposition of a duty of care upon landowners will not relieve motorists of a duty because in Florida, even if a landowner breaches her duty of care, a plaintiff's award will be offset by the percentage of fault attributable to him in comparison to the fault of others, including the landowner. Id. at 221.