William Smith, Florida Premises Liability on Easements of Way: Liability for Injuries to Third Parties

62 Fla. L. Rev. 829 (2010) | | | |

CASE COMMENT ::Imagine for a moment that you are the proud homeowner of a single-family home in Florida. Now imagine that you and three neighboring homeowners share a private driveway that straddles the property line between the four lots, allowing vehicular and pedestrian ingress and egress for all four owners to and from a public road. Assume this private easement of way is expressly granted in the deeds to all four lots and duly recorded with the local municipality. Perhaps the driveway has a dirt or gravel-type surface, because neither you nor your neighbors wish to foot the bill to have the driveway paved. You and your neighbors use the driveway daily, driving across it when traveling to and from work, walking across it when exercising your dog, and walking on it when playing a game of catch with neighborhood children. Although you and your neighbors have never met to discuss who should shoulder the responsibility of the driveway’s maintenance, you and your neighbors are all very amicable towards one another, and no disputes ever seem to arise regarding the driveway use and maintenance.

Suppose, however, your neighbor’s elderly Aunt Ida visits and steps into a pothole on the driveway while walking out to get the mail in front of your neighbor’s house. She breaks her ankle, and the impact from her fall severely aggravates her arthritic back condition. You may be surprised to learn that although the injury occurred on the portion of the easement crossing your neighbor’s land, and to one of his guests, a Florida court may find that you are at least partly responsible for her injuries.

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