Skip to main content

The question of insurance liability and sidewalks: We may save our pink pump, our outdoor seating and our flowers, but at what cost?

August 20, 2021
By T Michele Walker

While Lee County Ordinance NO. 21-XX, presented at the Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board meeting last Wednesday, sounds like a great way to allow us to “keep Boca Grande, Boca Grande,” and to allow businesses to continue to have tables and chairs, benches, flower pots and other decorations and signage that express our uniqueness, one question still looms large.

Will there be modifications or additional coverage required by Boca Grande businesses with regards to their liability insurance?

The Boca Beacon reached out to the Lee County Zoning office for comment on this matter. We were told, “The ordinance does not require a business owner to seek liability insurance. Instead, it states ‘Commercial use of the sidewalk is at the sole risk of the business owner. Lee County assumes no liability with respect to any such business or use and makes no assurances regarding the suitability of the sidewalk for such business or use.’

That means if someone gets hurt on the sidewalk, that person can sue the business owner, the landlord (for allowing the business to operate in that manner) and Lee County. The message from Lee County Zoning implied it would be prudent for the business owner to make sure the landlord gives permission to expand the business onto the sidewalk and to get liability insurance listing the county and property owner as additionally insured. Otherwise, the landlord and County could countersue the business owner for using the sidewalk in a negligent or reckless manner.”

According to Nat Italiano, vice president and producer for Italiano Insurance Services, Inc., premises and operations insurance is part of the general liability policy.

“This coverage is already included in any current business insurance policy,” he said. “Anything that would go out in front of their premises sidewalk or walkway, for example, a bench or a rack of clothing, is covered.”

It is important to note that in the ordinance, it states in Section Nine: Modification, “It is the intent of the Board of County Commissioners that the provisions of this ordinance may be modified as a result of consideration that may arise during the Public Hearing(s). Such modifications shall be incorporated into the final version.”

When Amanda Swindle, Lee County Government attorney, was asked about permitting input from the community to make modifications to the ordinance, her response was, “Is the recommendation of this board then to request to put this ordinance on pause and stop the review process?”

The board responded that they did not want to stop the review process. Swindle’s response was, “That’s what we would have to do to send it to the Chamber of Commerce and get comments and take it back. That would restart this process.”

The ordinance does require careful examination and input from the business owners and residents of Boca Grande.

Meeting agenda and backup materials for this ordinance are available at the Lee County DCD Planning Section located at 1500 Monroe Street, Fort Myers, FL, the Johann Fust Community Library, and online at To contact Lee County Government Zoning or call (239) 533-8329.