Slippery Sidewalks in Coral Gables, FL – Who is Responsible?
Believe it or not, the City of Coral Gables says the adjacent homeowner is. They even have a municipal code that says so.
According to the Code of the City of Coral Gables, Florida which contains the general and permanent ordinances of the City of Coral Gables, Chapter 62, Section 151 states, in pertinent part, “All owners of unimproved property and occupants, or occupants and owners of improved property shall maintain their property in a clean, litter-free and mowed condition, including sidewalks, grass strips, alleys up to and including the median point of the alley, curbs, swale areas, or rights-of-way up to the edge of pavement of any public street. Maintenance shall include, but not be limited to, mowing the grass and performing general edging, trimming and cleanup activities.”.
In a recent case, Davis Law co-counseled with The Ward Law Group, P.L., our client slipped and fell on a dirty, unkept sidewalk in Coral Gables. She sustained significant injuries. The claim was brought against the homeowner whose house she fell in front of and the City of Coral Gables. Not surprisingly, the City, using their municipal code, claimed it was the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalk in a clean, safe condition. The homeowner argued that the city owns the sidewalks and the black olive trees in the swale which made the sidewalk dirty. The homeowner further argued that he regularly maintained his lawn and cleaned the sidewalk.
Multiple city officials testified that although Coral Gables has 213 miles of sidewalks – they do not clean them. They have no program in effect for inspecting or maintaining the sidewalks and only respond to complaints. If an inspection reveals a sidewalk to be dirty, the City of Coral Gables will direct the homeowner adjacent to that sidewalk to clean it.
A Miami-Dade County Judge considered all of the evidence in the case, including the testimony of witnesses, experts, City officials, police officers, fire rescue personnel, the parties and independent witnesses and granted Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment against the homeowner on the limited issue of “duty”. The court found, that under the prevailing line of cases and legal theory known as“the undertaker’s doctrine”, that the homeowner, through his frequent efforts and “undertakings’ in cleaning the sidewalk had a duty to maintain the sidewalk in front of his house in a reasonably safe condition.
The case settled after years of litigation the night before trial was to begin. The takeaway from this litigation over a slippery sidewalk in the City of Coral Gables, Florida is that both the homeowner and the city are responsible for keeping the sidewalks safe. Another important lesson is that if a homeowner does decide to regularly maintain and clean the sidewalks in front of their home, they better do a good job!