MIAMI — The 3rd District Court of Appeal has affirmed lower court rulings of five summary judgments in cases in which a woman alleges she was injured at a condo community due to negligence in repairing the sidewalk.
The case centers on Rachel Vancelette's claims that in December 2011 she tripped on an unmarked ramp and curb at the Boulan South Beach Condos in Miami Beach, owned by Boulan South Beach Condominium Association Inc. The ramp and curb were under construction as part of a renovation project undertaken by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), according to court records. FDOT issued a permit for the developer to repair the crosswalk, and it approved plans for the work in 2009. The work was performed by subcontractors and inspected by the engineers who drew the plans. FDOT accepted the work in 2010, court records state.
Trial courts ruled in favor of the defendants, Boulan South Beach Condominium Association and others, in five summary judgments. Vancelette appealed to the 3rd District Court, arguing that the trial court should have granted her motion for continuance.
Judge Vance E. Salter wrote that the trial court could not be faulted for dismissing a motion for continuance for a long-scheduled hearing for summary judgment. Salter wrote that Vancelette did not present any reason why she could not have completed the discovery before the summary judgment and added that the motion was filed less than two weeks before the scheduled hearing after the suit had been filed nearly three years before, according to court records. Additionally, her attorney had told the courts that she was ready for trial, which demonstrated her readiness, and a lack of need for a continuance.
Vancelette also appealed that the case should not have been subjected to the doctrine regarding the legal effect of an owner’s acceptance of the work.
“[A]cceptance of the completed work by the owner relieves the construction and design defendants of further liability as to alleged patent defects," Salter wrote, referencing the previous ruling standard of Slavin v. Kay. "Ms. Vancelette’s reliance on a punch list email by the Engineers (Possible tripping hazard), is misplaced. The email was dated March 19, 2010, five months before DOT accepted the completed work.”
The court ruled the Slavin standard applies in this case.