5th District Court of Appeal
Case No. 5D23-0324
March 2024

Williams vs. Weaver

Did Not Participate

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Case Details


In a 2-1 decision, the majority reversed the trial court’s entry of summary judgement in favor of Weaver and sent it back to trial court for more proceedings. The ruling reads:

"Because genuine issues of material fact exist regarding Weaver’s duties to warn and to maintain his premises, we reverse the order … and remand for further proceedings."

They first considered if the trial judge was correct that Williams was injured in the course of his work. If that was the case, the property owner would not be liable. The majority determined that because Williams had not begun the contracted work yet, and was entering the property to hand off papers, Weaver could still be held liable if he was found at fault.

Next, they considered if it was appropriate to grant the summary judgement. The majority explain that in order to win a motion for summary judgement, Weaver (the property owner) must show that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact”. When making the decision, the judge must also look at the evidence in a way that favors Williams (the injured person) whenever possible.

The majority argue that there is still a dispute about the material facts: was Weaver’s property in a reasonably safe condition? If the danger was obvious, Weaver had a duty to repair it. They say because Weaver acknowledged certain things—the deck needed to be cleaned regularly, it needed to be cleaned at the time of the fall, and the algae should not have been walked on—there is a genuine dispute of material fact whether the property was maintained in a “reasonably safe condition”, as well as if he could have anticipated the condition could cause an injury.

The majority also determined that even though the trial judge said the algae was obvious, there was an open question whether or not the danger was obvious. They came to this conclusion because both Weaver and Williams made statements that suggest it was not obviously dangerous:

  • Williams stated he did not think it was dangerous before falling. He said he did not know algae was there until after he fell.
  • Weaver, who walked past it regularly, initially did not think it was dangerous at the time of Williams’ fall, but agreed it may have been.

The majority argues that even if it was obvious, Weaver, as the property owner, was required to warn Williams of the danger.

The majority agree with Williams that there was a genuine dispute of material facts in this case, which would eliminate the possibility of a summary judgement.

Dissent: Judge MacIver

"The majority here has found two questions appropriate for jury consideration. … I disagree on both counts and would affirm with the [trial court]."

Judge MacIver disagrees with the majority, but agrees with the trial court that no reasonable jury could find that Williams wouldn’t be able to understand the deck posed a slipping hazard. He also says that the jury is meant to answer factual questions about if rules have been violated in particular cases, and the question of what the “common law rule” is should be answered by the court. He considers the questions in this case to be for the court to answer, not a jury.

He argues that the danger was obvious. He says Williams should have known walking on the deck would be dangerous, because Williams was the one who created the dangerous condition. The grass he had been walking across was wet, so his rubber boots were wet when he stepped onto the deck. He believes it is an obvious fact that the deck could be slippery if the boots got it wet.

He argues that Weaver does have a duty to keep his property is a safe condition, but that doesn’t extend to requiring him to predict and make a special effort for a “lack of someone else’s care”.  He says the deck wasn’t dangerous on its own. The deck became slippery when “Williams crossed it wearing wet rubber boots”.

He is also concerned that court rulings become precedent for future cases.

Read the full ruling


Williams sued Weaver for being injured on Weaver’s property.

Through Williams’ employer, Weaver hired him for lawn services. Williams walked to the front door to deliver paperwork. When he stepped onto a deck in the yard, he slipped and fell, hurting his back.

Williams says that when walking up to the deck, the grass was wet. He saw the deck was old and discolored but it didn’t appear to be wet. He thought it was safe because of its general appearance, and items on the deck like a bench and decorations made it appear usable. After falling, he noticed that the discoloration was a greenish algae that was all over the deck.

Weaver says he cleans the deck once a year, but had not cleaned it in the months before Williams’ fall. He said he didn’t think the deck was slippery at that time but that it could have been. Once shown a picture of the deck taken at the time of the fall, Weaver agreed it needed to be cleaned at that time, and the parts with algae were unsuitable for walking.

Weaver filed a motion to ask for a summary judgement in his favor. Summary judgement is a decision made by a trial judge  on wins the case without a full trial. The trail judge agreed, noting:

  • Williams was an employee of an independent contractor injured in the course of work.
  • there was no genuine dispute to material facts. (A genuine dispute means evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the injured party.)
  • no reasonable jury would think the algae wasn’t obvious.
  • between the obvious algae and the grass being wet, it was common sense that Williams could fall on the deck, and Williams should have paid more attention.

Williams appealed the trial court’s ruling.

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