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Florida Third DCA remands for directed verdict in favor of defendant in premises liability case, finding no duty by defendant to provide security to plaintiff in public park

On April 18, 2018, in Competitive Softball Promotions v. Ayub, Np. 3D17-1420, the Florida Third DCA reversed a trial court’s denial of the defendant’s post-trial motion for a directed verdict in a premises liability negligence and remanded the case for entry of a direct verdict in the defendant’s favor. The plaintiff had alleged that the defendant, which ran a softball tournament held in a public park, had failed to provide adequate security for the event, resulting in plaintiff’s injury when a fight broke out between teams in a common area of the park outside of the rented softballs fields. Both at trial and in its unsuccessful post-trial motion, the defendant claimed that it was not legally responsible for the plaintiff’s injury because it did not have any control over the area in which the incident occurred. The Third DCA noted on review that “[t]he legal duty to protect invitees from injuries caused by third parties is tied to the defendant’s control over the premises where the injury occurred,” citing Brown v. Suncharm Ranch, Inc., 748 So. 2d 1077, 1078 (Fla. 5th DCA 1999), Publix Super Markets, Inc. v. Jeffery, 650 So. 2d 122, 124 (Fla. 3d DCA 1995) and Daly v. Denny’s, Inc., 694 So. 2d 775, 777 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997)(concluding that the requisite control can exist over the premises or over the tortfeasor). The Third DCA concluded that the defendant did not have the requisite control over the scene of the tort because it did hot have authority to control access to and from the common areas.

The Third DCA also rejected the plaintiff alternative argument that the defendant had a duty to secure the area because it was foreseeable that a fight would occur there. The Third DCA agreed that a duty can arise where the defendant’s conduct creates conditions that cause injuries to invitees that occur beyond the limits of the premises within the defendant’s control, citing Almarante v. Art Inst. of Fort Lauderdale, Inc., 921 So. 2d 703, 705 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006), but concluded that there was no record evidence that the defendant’s conduct created the conditions that led to the fight in the common area of the public park.