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Florida woman fails to prove argument in slip and fall negligence case

By Charmaine Little | May 3, 2017

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WEST PALM BEACH — The Florida 4th District Court of Appeal has ruled that a woman failed to prove her claim in a liability case that a shopping area was at fault when she tripped on a "loose" paver stone.

Delores Arp filed an appeal against Waterway East Association Inc. (W.E.) in Palm Beach County after the Circuit Court for the 15th Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County granted W.E.’s motion for summary judgment. 

Arp lost the appeal when the court affirmed the lower court's decision. It said that Arp was not an "invitee" to the shopping area that she used as a shortcut to get home, and W.E. didn’t violate any responsibility that it owed her as someone who was considered an “uninvited licensee.”

The issues between the parties started when Arp and a friend were headed to her home after a dinner cruise and allegedly tripped and fell on a piece of paver stone that was cracked and “a little loose” on W.E.'s property, according to court documents. This area is often seen as a “cut through” that Arp said she had seen many people use before.

Arp was not a customer in the shopping center of the property that W.E. owns. Instead, she used the property as a shortcut because she “just wanted to get home,” court records state. As a result of the fall, she filed a negligence lawsuit against the organization because she was an “implied invitee” on the property. She also sued the city of Delray Beach. 

W.E. moved for summary judgment, stating it didn’t break any regulation or responsibility with Arp and that it didn’t have the responsibility to make sure that particular area was maintained. 

The trial court agreed and granted W.E.’s motion. It said that the plaintiff “was at best a licensee” and that the defendant’s “only duty was not to harm her willfully or wantonly.”

Arp appealed the lower court’s decision and said that the paver stones were not private property. She said “that factual issues regarding her status on the property created a question for the jury.”

Arp argued that she was an implied invitee but the court found her argument unpersuasive. The appeals court broke down the definition of an invitee, saying “the visitor entering the premises has an objectively reasonable belief that he or she has been invited or is otherwise welcome on that portion of the real property where injury occurs.”

It said that just because there wasn’t a “no trespassing” sign, does not mean that Arp was invited on the property. Instead, the court said she fits the description for an uninvited licensee that is described as someone who decides “to come upon the premises solely for (his or her) own connivence without invitation either expressed or reasonably implied under the circumstances.”

Because Arp wasn’t on the property actually visit any of the stores, she was not considered an invitee but rather an “uninvited licensee” who used the “cut through” to get home. 

The appeals court affirmed the circuit court’s ruling to grant W.E. a summary judgment.

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Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal