The Latest on Liability for Obstructing Foliage

The landmark case on the issue of the responsibility of a landowner for allowing foliage on property to obstruct the vision of adjacent motorists is McCain v. Florida Power Corp., 593 So. 2d 500 (Fla. 1992). There the Florida Supreme Court rejected the “agrarian rule” that holds that a landowner has no liability when foliage on the landowner’s property extends to such an extent as to block the view of oncoming motorists and an accident ensues. Instead, the McCain Court held that the issue was one of foreseeability both as to duty and proximate cause. In McCain the Court held that the trial court must determine whether a “zone of risk” was foreseeable thus creating a duty to act or avoid to minimize that zone by cutting back foliage. The Court next met this issue in the case of Whitt v. Silverman, 788 So. 2d 210 (Fla. 2001). There a pedestrian was injured when foliage on a gas station extended and blocked ingress and egress to a vehicle entering or exiting the premises. In Witt at Page 285, the Court held:

Accordingly, we conclude that under our analysis

in McCain, the landowners’ conduct here created

a foreseeable zone of risk posing a general threat

of harm toward the patrons of the business as well

as those pedestrians and motorists using the

abutting streets and sidewalks that would

reasonably be affected by the

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flow of the business. Notwithstanding this conclusion,

of course, cell phone spy app cases bis research paper 38 like this must be subjected to a

factual determination of whether the landowners

actually breached their duty under the particular

circumstances and whether the accidental death

or injury was a proximate result of any breach

of that duty. In other words, although we conclude

that the landowners had a duty of care, a discrete

factual analysis and determination is required

to determine the landowner’s alleged responsibility

in each case.

In Williams v Davis, 32 Fla. L. Weekly S745 (Fla. 2007) the Court, once again, was faced with a similar issue but this time relating to residential property where the foliage did not extend into the public right-of-way. In that case, the plaintiff’s decedent was driving down the road when she was struck and killed by a dump truck traveling on a crossing road. The plaintiff claimed that the foliage on the property in question obstructed the decedent’s view of other traffic and thereby contributed to the accident. The Court was faced with a certified question that the Court reworded as follows:



FLORIDA POWER CORP., 593 So. free spy phone apk 2d 500







The Court answered the question in the negative. In analyzing the issue, the Court conceded that the facts of this case were very similar to those contained within Witt, supra. However, the Court further concluded that there was a substantial difference in the factual underpinning of Witt because a commercial business was involved and because there was a duty to provide a safe ingress and egress for both customers and passing pedestrians. At Page S747, the Court held:

We conclude that these prior decisions can

best be reconciled by a recognition that

ordinarily a private residential landowner

should be held accountable under the zone

of risk analysis principles of McCain only

when it can be determined that the landowner

has permitted conditions on the land to

extend into the public right-of-way so as to

create a foreseeable hazard to traffic on the

adjacent streets. . . .

In short, while we conclude that McCain’s

principles of duty should be extended in

appropriate circumstances to owners or

occupiers of commercial property and to

other property owners who permit conditions

on spy apps for iphone their property to extend into the public

right-of-way, we do not believe McCain’s

principles lead to a finding of duty here.

While all property owners must remain

alert to the potential that conditions on

their land could have an adverse impact on

adjacent motorists or others, we are not

convinced the existing rules of liability

established by our case law that distinguish

conditions having an extra-territorial effect

from those limited to the property’s boundaries

should be abandoned.

Thus while Florida has not adopted the agrarian rule precluding liability to a landowner for allowing foliage to obstruct the vision of motorists, the zone of risk test established in McCain, supra, does not apply to residential property where the foliage does not extend beyond the property’s boundaries. Originally published in March 2008

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