Property owners in Florida have a duty to make sure their property is safe for visitors. If a lawful visitor (or sometimes, a child trespasser) is injured on another person’s property, the injured person often has legal recourse against the owner of that property.
This type of legal action is known as, “premises liability.”
The South Florida premises liability attorneys at Freeman Injury Law have successfully pursued premises liability lawsuits against:
- Private homeowners
- Small business owners
- Commercial property owners
- Commercial property managers
- Commercial tenants
- Construction companies
Specifically, defendants might include owners of:
- Shopping malls
- Grocery stores
- Amusement parks
- Apartment complexes
- Parking garages
- Construction sites
In any Florida premises liability lawsuit, injured parties will need to prove that the owner or manager of the property failed to make the property safe when they should have and that injuries resulted. Most cases involve presentation of proof that:
- Property knew or should have known there was a dangerous condition on the property.
- Property owner failed in the duty to repair or give warning of this dangerous condition.
- Plaintiff was injured as a result of the dangerous condition.
Although there are some exceptions, property owners usually can’t be held liable for dangerous conditions on site about which they didn’t know or had no reason to know about. The idea is that when people enter a property, they still have the responsibility to be reasonably careful with their own safety.
However, there are varying levels of responsibility, based on the duty of care owed by the property owner, what type of property it is and the role of the person on site.
Some of the premises liability claims we have handled include:
- Slip-and-Fall (Slippery Floor)
- Trip-and-Fall (Uneven/ Cluttered Ground)
- Inadequate Security
- Negligent Maintenance
- Falling Merchandise
- Swimming Pool Drowning
- Children on Property/ Attractive Nuisance
- Construction Site Accidents
Premises liability action could range from a broken swimming pool gate that allows a small child to enter to a puddle that causes a grocery store patron to slip-and-fall to the failure of a nightclub owner to staff enough bouncers to handle a violent crowd.
One element that is going to be essential to the difficulty and complexity of the case is the role of the plaintiff. Determining whether a premises liability claim is viable will involve first deciding was the victim an “Invitee,” a “Licensee” or a “Trespasser.”Trespassers
In Florida, F.S. 810.08 defines trespass in a structure to mean willful entry or remaining in a place either without authorization, licensing or invitation or after the owner has warned the individual to leave.
These individuals have only limited protection under Florida premises liability law. Aside from attractive nuisance (which involves children, and we’ll explain further below), trespassers can only be awarded damages for injuries if they suffer harm by the property owner’s intentional traps.Licensees
The definition for “licensee” was set in the 1953 Florida Supreme Court case of Stewart v. Texas . It is essentially someone who enters a property solely for their own convenience or pleasure. They are not on the site unlawfully, but neither are they providing a benefit to the owner.
Generally, these are either social guests or salespersons. For example, family, friends or others who enter a property strictly for social purposes. Another example might be a salesperson or neighbor who stops by unexpectedly.
When a licensee is an invited guest, the property owner owes a duty to keep the property in reasonably safe condition. However, if the licensee is uninvited, property owners need only to refrain from willful or wanton injury. There is no duty to protected uninvited licensees from third-party crimes.Invitees
Invitees are owed the highest duty of care in Florida premises liability law.
There are two types:
- Public Invitees – Those persons invited to enter or remain on a site that is held open to the public.
- Business Invitees – Persons invited to enter or remain on site for purposes directly or indirectly connected to the business dealings of the land possessor.
These could be shoppers at a grocery store, guests at a hotel, a family at a public park, those who stop at a gas station or repair persons at a private residence.
In these cases, property owners have a duty to keep the property in reasonably safe condition and to repair or provide warning of any dangers about which the property owner knows or reasonably should know about. It is not a defense to neglect routine inspection of a site and then claim, “I didn’t know about it.” The reasonable care standard involves requiring a duty to inspect. If there are dangers about which the property owner didn’t actually know but should have known through regular inspection, liability can still be imposed.Attractive Nuisance/ Special Duty to Children
Property owners – and especially those who own residential swimming pools – have to take special care to children who enter their property – even if that child is a trespasser.
The concept of the “attractive nuisance doctrine” is that property owners have to take special care to protect children who might be attracted to a danger on the property. This would include (but isn’t limited to) things like:
- Swimming pools
- Old appliances
- Unlocked vehicles
- Anything potentially dangerous that would attract/ entice a child
Property owners have to take reasonable steps to protect children from these dangers. An example might include putting adequate fencing or screening around a swimming pool and making sure the gate is locked when not in use.
Our experienced injury attorneys are dedicated to fighting for the rights of the injured and offer private consultations at our offices throughout South Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie, Miami, Margate and Orlando. If you have been injured while on another’s property, you may be entitled to recover for those injuries.
Freeman Injury Law – 1-800-561-7777