Fisher v. United States, No. 19-13626 (11th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Eleventh Circuit held that a Florida statute, Fla. Stat. 375.251(2)(a), which speaks in broad and unqualified terms, means exactly what it says—that an owner incurs no ordinary duty of care to, and no duty to warn, any entrant, regardless of his common-law status or reason for entry.
In this case, plaintiff and his wife filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) after plaintiff slipped and fell at a public shower at Tables Beach. The federal government operates Patrick Air Force Base on a large parcel of land in Brevard County, and that land encompasses Tables Beach, which fronts the Atlantic Ocean and which the government has opened to the public. The United States claimed that it was immune from suit because the FTCA, which waives sovereign immunity in specified instances, authorizes only those tort actions that can be brought against private persons under state law. The district court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that Florida's recreational-use statute eliminated the government's ordinary duty of care and duty to warn as to plaintiff and his wife.
The court affirmed the district court's dismissal, holding that because the recreational-use statute protects a qualifying landowner against a suit alleging a breach of its ordinary duty of care and duty to warn as to all entrants, regardless of their reason for entry, the government has not waived its sovereign immunity under the FTCA. Therefore, the court cannot exercise jurisdiction over this action against the United States.