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Florida Third DCA rules that hotel which provided golf cart shuttle service to guests did not assume a duty to transport persons off property and was not liable for guest’s injuries from being struck as a pedestrian by a motor vehicle

On July 29, 2020, in Luckman v. Wills, et al., No. 3D19-453, the Florida Third DCA affirmed a summary judgment entered by the trial court on behalf of the defendant in a wrongful death  case.  The lawsuit involved an accident suffered by a guest while staying at the Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada, Florida.  The defendant, the corporate owner of the Cheeca Lodge, offered a golf cart service to take guests around its property.  However, the golf car was prohibited from traveling on public roads and was not available to ferry guests across U.S. 1 to a grocery store across the highway from the Lodge.  On the night of the accident, a Lodge employee drove the guest to approximately 20 feet of U.S. 1 and left him to cross the highway to the grocery store on foot.  The guest was subsequently struck by a vehicle, suffering injuries that eventually caused his death during the pendency of the lawsuit.   The decedent’s estate alleged in the lawsuit that Cheeca Lodge undertook a duty to transport the decedent to The Trading Post in a reasonably safe manner, and that it failed to warn Decedent of the dangers of U.S. 1 when its employee dropped Decedent off on the east side of U.S. 1 to cross the highway. On appeal of the trial court’s order granting summary judgment for the defendant, the Third DCA focused on whether the conduct of Cheeca Lodge created a foreseeable zone of risk such that it owed a duty of care to the Decedent, quoting from McCain v. Fla. Power Corp., 593 So. 2d 500, 503 (Fla. 1992): “[w]here a defendant’s conduct creates a foreseeable zone of risk, the law generally will recognize a duty placed upon defendant either to lessen the risk or see that sufficient precautions are taken to protect others from the harm that the risk poses.” The Third DCA concluded that once the decedent voluntarily disembarked from the golf cart, Cheeca Lodge owed no further duty of care to him, citing Angulo v. Szklaver, 746 So. 2d 562, 563 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999) (concluding that a bus driver owes no duty of care to a passenger who safely disembarks from the bus); Cecil v. D’Marlin, Inc., 680 So. 2d 1138, 1138 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996) (determining that a bus driver did not create a “foreseeable zone of risk” when the passenger disembarked the bus and attempted to cross U.S. 1); Sheir v. Metro. Dade Cty., 375 So. 2d 1114, 1117 (Fla. 3d DCA 1979) (holding that the deceased was no longer a passenger once he disembarked from the bus and that “there is no authority to support . . . that a busdriver [sic] has a duty to warn passengers who have safely alighted the bus of a possible danger beyond that point”); Paneque v. Metro. Dade Cty., 478 So. 2d 414, 415 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985) (holding that the county was not subject to liability for failing to warn pedestrians of a danger that was readily apparent).