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After The Fall: Florida Premises Liability Law Explained

When an individual is injured on the property of another, or owned by a business, a claim can be made against the owner. Here we will be discussing an injury caused by some aspect of the property itself and not the direct action of an individual. This is known as premises liability.

In a premises liability claim, there must be a duty owed by the property owner to the injured party that was breached, and this breach caused the injury.

To determine the duty owed by the property owner to the individual, one must look at the nature of why that person was there. The law classifies these individuals into three categories, trespassers, licensees, and invitees. Each group had a different level of care that the property owner must extend while the person is on their property.

The first category is the trespasser. Under Florida law, a trespasser is one who is not supposed to be on the property of another when they suffer an injury. In Post v. Lunney, 261.So.2d 146, 147 (Fla. 1972) the Florida Supreme Court defined a trespasser as one, "who enters the premises of another without license, invitation or other right, and intrudes for some definite purpose of his own, or at his own convenience, or merely as an idler with no apparent purpose other than perhaps to satisfy his curiosity". The duty a property owner owes to a trespasser is very limited. The owner is not to set any traps or purposefully put any device on his property with the sole intention of harming a trespasser. There is, however, a specific duty owed to a child who trespasses onto one’s property under the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine. The requires that a property owner make secure certain items that may be attractive or enticing to the child. This doctrine usually deals with the issue of swimming pools that do not have the required barriers in place that prevent a child trespasser from gaining access to the pool leading to an injury or drowning.

The next category, the licensee, requires a slightly higher duty on the part of the property owner. An invitee enters upon one's property with the owner's permission for the convenience or pleasure of the invitee alone. Under this circumstance, the property owner does not have a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition, and further does not have to continually examine their property to ensure that no hazardous conditions have arisen.

Finally, there is the invitee. These individuals are owed the highest duty as they are invited by the owner to enter the property. Invitees fall into two distinct categories, the public invitee, and the business invitee. A public invitee is an individual "who is invited to enter or remain on land as a member of the public for a purpose for which the land is held open to the public." A business invitee is an individual who is invited to enter or remain on land for the purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings with the possessor of the land”. see Post v. Lunney, 261 So.2d 146 (Fla. 1972)

The main difference between the trespasser/licensee and the invitee should be apparent from the wording itself; the invitee is invited by the property owner onto their property for either personal or business purposes. A property owner must not only maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition, but must also warn an invitee if there is an area on the property that is not reasonably safe. The duty requires the owner to do so in a reasonably expedient manner. For example, the owner of a grocery store must monitor the conditions of the store and take action when there is a spill or other hazard by placing warning signs in the area. In the owner fails to act in a reasonably expedient manner and someone is injured, the owner will be liable for that injury as he breached the duty of care owed to the invitee.

As you can see, the issues that are involved when you are injured on someone’s property, whether it be the home of a friend or a retail store, depends on various factors. If you suffer such an injury, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. The attorneys at The Watson Firm have the experience to properly evaluate and assist you with your injury claim. We are available around the clock should you need our assistance.