Luther, Collier, Hodges & Cash, LLP – Attorneys at Law

FLORIDA – Exculpatory Lease Clauses Are Enforceable

 In a personal injury action, Luther, Collier, Hodges & Cash, LLP won summary judgment on grounds that an exculpatory clause in a lease agreement shielded the defendant from liability.  Summary judgment was upheld on appeal.

Recently, the Florida First District Court of Appeal upheld summary judgment in a case involving a residential tenant who sustained injury when she sat on a decorative picket fence and fell to the ground. The tenant sued the property owner and the property management company that oversaw the rental. Attorneys Richard Fillmore and Lucian Hodges of Luther, Collier, Hodges and Cash, LLP. defended the property management company and successfully obtained summary judgment at the trial level.

On appeal, Defendants argued that an exculpatory clause within the lease agreement shielded them from liability. The clause noted that the tenant inspected the property before assuming tenancy and accepted the property in an as-is condition. Fillmore and Hodges also argued that the picket fence was not a defect or dangerous condition.  Rather, the tenant was injured because she used the decorative fence for an unforeseen and unintended purpose. The First DCA agreed and upheld the summary judgment.

This opinion provides more support for the legal principle that the duty of a landlord (or landlord’s agent) to correct defects or dangerous conditions is limited to those that are inherently unsafe or not readily apparent to the tenant. Also, the case resolved what Plaintiff asserted was a conflict between the Florida Landlord Tenant Act and an individual’s right to contract. Plaintiff argued that the Landlord Tenant Act prevents the use of an exculpatory clause in a residential lease. In affirming summary judgment, the Court found that exculpatory clauses in a lease are enforceable as long as the language is not ambiguous and the tenant is fully apprised of the nature of the waiver.

Casasanta v. Sailshare, 296 LLC, 1D17-4862, 2019 WL 1613591 (Fla. 1st DCA Apr. 16, 2019)

Read the full opinion:


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