Premise Liability & Injury
Premise Liability & Injury Law
Hiring the right premise liability lawyer requires several considerations. You should seek legal counsel who has a diversified background in not only torts, but also land use, and corporate litigation. A premise liability lawyer needs to have experience dealing not only with insurance companies and medical records, but complex commercial litigation. The scope of those duties depends on why the person was on the property. However, landowners are liable if they breach those duties and it results in injuries or damages to people on the property. Some of the most common examples include:
Slip and fall hazards in retail or supermarket
Stairways that are not up to code or have poor lighting
Construction defect that leads to an accident such as a hole on a walking pavement
Accidents due to poor maintenance such as a broken staircase or broken glass
In a premise liability case, some of the most common injuries that you may sustain include:
Back and neck injuries
Fractured or broken bones
Head and brain injuries
If you’re injured in a premise liability accident, you should get immediate medical attention even if you feel okay. Sometimes, the injuries may not appear immediately after an accident only to appear in the days or weeks that follow. For an individual to establish a premise liability claim, they have to prove that:
The property owner knew of the dangerous condition of the property;
The owner did not show any signs indicating the state of the property or make any attempt to repair the condition; and
The unsafe condition of the property injured the victim.
If the property owner had no prior knowledge of the property’s condition, they might not be held responsible for any injuries. However, the property owner has to make the necessary repairs of any known hazards in their property. They should also clearly indicate the dangers to warn visitors. Florida Statute 768.0755 addresses "Premise liability for transitory foreign substances in a business establishment" The statute provides:
(1) If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it. Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that:
(a) The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition; or
(b) The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
(2) This section does not affect any common-law duty of care owed by a person or entity in possession or control of a business premises.
There are many other classes of premise liability cases, that depend in part on the classification of the injured party. Below is a breakdown of those classifications, including invitee, licensee, and trespassor.
Visitors afforded the greatest degree of protection under Florida premises liability law are “invitees.” There are two types of “invitees.” A “public invitee” is a person who is invited to enter or remain on-premises as a member of the public for the purpose for which the premises are held open to the public. Post v. Lunney, 261 So. 2d 146, 148 (Fla. 1972).
A “business invitee” or “business visitor” is a person who is invited to enter or remain on-premises for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings with the possessor of the premises. Smith v. Dade County/Seaport Dep’t, 785 So. 2d 1250, 1251 (Fla. 3d DCA 2001). The vast majority of premises liability claims arise from injuries to invitees. An example of a business invitee is customers shopping at Publix or Walmart. Customers visiting the property in these examples further the business interests of the property owner.
DUTY OWED TO INVITEES
“A property owner or occupier has two duties toward invitees: (1) to keep his property in reasonably safe condition and to protect the invitee from dangers of which he is or should be aware; and (2) to warn the invitee of concealed dangers which are or should be known to the owner or occupier and which are unknown to the invitee and cannot be discovered by him through the exercise of due care.” Levy v. Home Depot, Inc., 518 So. 2d 941, 942 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987).
A “licensee” is a person who comes on the property solely for their own convenience without invitation either expressed or reasonably implied under the circumstances. Wood v. Camp, 284 So. 2d 691, 695 (Fla. 1973).
As noted above, someone who is on the property of a business is ordinarily an “invitee,” but if the person is on the property not for the purpose of transacting business but solely for their own purposes, they might be classified as a “licensee.” Bruno v. Seigel, 73 So. 2d 674, 674 (Fla. 1954). Additionally, an “invitee” can lose their status as an invitee, becoming a “licensee,” by going into a part of the premises that was beyond the scope of their invitation. Denniser v. Columbia Hosp. Corp. of S. Broward, 162 So. 3d 26, 28 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014). Using the examples of Publix and Walmart from above, a customer shopping would be an “invitee” but if the customer walked into an “employees only” area of the property, they would exceed the scope of their invitation on the property, likely becoming a licensee.
DUTY OWED TO LICENSEES
“The duty of care owed by a landowner to an uninvited licensee is to refrain from willful misconduct or wanton negligence, to warn of known dangers not open to ordinary observation, and to refrain from intentionally exposing the uninvited licensee to danger.” Porto v. Carlyle Plaza, Inc., 971 So. 2d 940, 941 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007).
“[A] trespasser is a person who enters the premises of another without license, invitation, or other rights, and intrudes for some definite purpose of his own, or at his convenience, or merely as an idler with no apparent purpose, other than perhaps to satisfy his curiosity.” Lukancich v. City of Tampa, 583 So. 2d 1070, 1072 (Fla. 2d DCA 1991) (quotation omitted).
DUTY OWED TO TRESPASSERS
Generally, the only duty of an owner or occupier of premises to a trespasser is to avoid willful and wanton injury. Fla. E. Coast Ry. Co. v. Pickard, 573 So. 2d 850, 855 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990). However, if the presence of the trespasser is discovered, then there is also a duty to warn of known dangerous conditions not readily apparent to ordinary observation. Id. In other words, if a trespasser is “discovered,” they become a “licensee.”
If you would like to schedule a consultation regarding a premise liability case, or as a business, would like legal advice on home to reduce your exposure to premise liability cases, click here to schedule a consultation.