On May 16, 2022, Judge Barbara Areces of the Eleventh District in and for Miami-Dade County granted summary judgment on all counts in favor of Chartwell Law defendant Homestead VPE Hotel LLC in the matter of Hilia Alfaro v. Homestead VPE Hotel LLC, 2020-010103-CA-01.
The plaintiff in the matter was injured when she collided with the arm of a sofa located within defendant’s hotel room. Plaintiff reportedly suffered significant injuries that ultimately resulted in multiple surgeries. Plaintiff alleged that defendant premises owner breached its duty to maintain the premises in a safe condition based on the “dangerous condition” that originated from the furniture placement within the room. Plaintiff argued that the narrow passageway between the sofa and the foot of the bed constituted a trip and fall hazard. In addition, plaintiff alleged that the dangerous condition was not open and obvious due to the fact that the wooden end table permanently attached to the arm of the sofa was an “unusual design.” Plaintiff argued that an open and obvious condition could relieve defendant’s duty to warn plaintiff but could not absolve defendant’s duty to maintain the premises in a safe condition. Plaintiff contended it was a question for the jury whether defendant’s actions breached its duty to keep invitees safe.
Defendant’s motion for summary judgment argued that some conditions are so obvious and not inherently dangerous that they can be said as a matter of law not to constitute a dangerous condition and will not give rise to liability due to a failure to maintain the premises in a safe condition. Furthermore, other conditions may be dangerous but are so open and obvious that an invitee can be expected to discover them and take appropriate measures to protect herself. The court agreed that the bright orange sofa that measured six feet long was an obvious condition. In addition, the sofa and furniture placement were easily observable, as the lighting was sufficient and there were no obstructions. Moreover, plaintiff admitted that she saw the sofa and the bed prior to the collision. On the contrary, there was evidence that the furniture placement and sofa were not dangerous conditions. There were no similar incidents. Furthermore, the City of Homestead approved the furniture placement and sofa prior to issuing a Certificate of Occupancy. The court found there was no evidence of an “unusual design” as there was no expert testimony and no prior or subsequent similar accidents to support that the wood piece on the sofa was anything other than open and obvious. Finally, the court agreed that defendant had no notice of a dangerous condition, as no guest or employee complained about or reported an injury in relation to the sofa and furniture placement since the hotel opened in 2011. Defendant pointed out that the amended summary judgment rule calls for more than the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in order to create a triable issue. In this case, summary judgment was appropriate because plaintiff did not produce even a scintilla of evidence in support of its position. Plaintiff’s allegation that the furniture placement and sofa constituted a dangerous condition was pure speculation and conjecture.
Defendant filed a proposal for settlement, which was rejected by plaintiff. Consequently, in light of summary judgment, defendant is entitled to fees and costs.