Overview of Premises Liability in Florida
When people in Florida are injured in slip and fall accidents or otherwise come into contact with a condition on someone else’s property that causes them to suffer injuries, they will likely have actionable premises liability claims against the landowner or the person exercising control over the property. Premises liability claims are a type of personal injury claim that people may assert against a property owner or property manager if they are injured in some way by a dangerous condition on the property. To bring a successful premises liability claim in Florida, people asserting these claims must prove certain elements, which are outlined in Florida law. This article discusses the elements one must prove in order to bring a successful premises liability claim in Florida.
Premises Liability Claims in Florida Generally
Premises liability claims are considered a specific form of negligence claim under Florida law. This means that, in order to win a premises liability claim, Florida law requires you to prove all four elements of a negligence action:
- The property owner or manager owed you a duty of care
- The property owner or manager breached the duty of care owed to you
- This breach caused you to suffer injuries
- Actual damage resulted to you
In Florida, all four of the above-listed elements must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence in order to prevail on a premises liability claim. Stated differently, all you must do to bring a successful premises liability claim in Florida is to present evidence that shows it is more likely than not that the property owner or manager owed you a duty of care, breached this duty, and you suffered physical or other economic injuries as a result of this breach.
Proving Duty of Care
Under Florida law, property owners and property managers do not owe everyone that enters into the property the same duty of care. Rather, the duty of care owed to a person that enters the property is determined by the reason that person is on the property. People who enter into another’s property are generally classified as invitees, licensees, or trespassers for the purpose of determining the duty of care owed to them. Invitees are people who enter into another’s property for some legitimate business purpose. Usually, people are considered invitees when they are customers of a store or when they are clients of a business. Licensees are people who enter into another’s property, with the permission of the property owner or manager, for a social purpose. Licensees are typically house guests or social guests, who are on the premises to attend events like a birthday party or a barbecue. Trespassers, on the other hand, are those that enter onto another’s property without permission to do so.
According to Florida law, property owners and managers owe the highest duty of care to invitees. Specifically, property owners and managers owe invitees a duty of care to keep the premises safe, which entails regularly inspecting the property and either repairing or warning invitees of any dangerous conditions that they know or should have known to exist on the property.
Licensees are owed the second highest duty of care in Florida. Under Florida law, property owners and managers owe licensees a duty to keep the premises reasonably safe, fix unsafe conditions, and warn licensees of any known dangers on the property. This duty of care is lower than that owed to invitees because property owners only need to warn licensees of dangerous conditions they actually knew about whereas property owners must warn invitees of dangerous conditions they both actually knew about or should have known about.
Trespassers, because they do not have permission to be on the premises, are owed the lowest duty of care. According to Florida law, all property owners or managers must do is to exercise reasonable care so as to prevent reckless or intentional injury to trespassers when they are on the property.
Because property owners and managers owe different duties of care to individuals depending upon an individual’s classification as either an invitee, licensee, or trespasser, an individual must prove that he or she fits into one of these categories. To do so, the individual may testify as to why he or she entered the property, present physical evidence such as a promotional flyer or an invitation which can show that he or she is either an invitee or licensee, or present testimony of other people who can testify that he or she was on the property for a particular purpose. It is important to note that, because trespassers are owed the lowest duty of care, it is best to try to establish that you were either an invitee or licensee when your injuries occurred.
Proving Breach of Duty of Care
Once you have established that you are either an invitee, licensee, or trespasser, you must prove that the property owner or manager failed to exercise the duty of care owed to you. If you are considered an invitee, this can be done by showing that a store had a practice of failing to regularly inspect the premises and repair dangerous conditions on the premises. Gathering policy and procedure manuals, video surveillance footage, and eliciting the testimony of store employees as well as certain expert witnesses to show that either the store’s policy and procedures were not being followed by staff or that the policy and procedures were flawed will likely show that the property owner or manager breach the duty of care owed to you as an invitee. If you are considered a licensee, showing photographs of the condition that caused you harm and eliciting testimony from yourself, the property owner, and other guests, which establish that the dangerous condition was known, may establish that the property owner breach the duty of care owed to you. If you are considered a trespasser, showing that the property owner intentionally placed a concealed dangerous condition on the property through your own testimony, the owner’s testimony, and photographs of the condition may establish that the property owner breach the duty of care owed to you as a trespasser.
Regardless of whether you are an invitee, licensee, or trespasser, proving that a dangerous condition on the property caused your injuries in a premises liability claim in Florida can generally be done the same way. First, you may present your own testimony that you came into contact with a dangerous condition on the property, and, thereafter, suffered injury. Second, you may present testimony of eyewitnesses who observed the injuries occur as a result of you coming into contact with the dangerous conditions. Third, you may present video surveillance footage, if it exists, depicting the events that led to your injury. Fourth, you may present evidence such as medical records to show that, immediately after the incident involving the dangerous condition occurred, you sought medical attention. The short period of time between seeking medical attention for your injuries and you coming into contact with the dangerous condition on the premises is circumstantial evidence that establishes the dangerous condition on the property and nothing else caused your injuries.
Similar to proving causation, proving that you suffered actual damages as a result of being injured by a dangerous condition on another’s property can be done the same way regardless of whether you are considered an invitee, licensee, or trespasser under Florida law. Presenting photographs of your injuries, medical records documenting your injuries, medical bills you incurred because of your injuries, and testimony of yourself and your treating physician can establish the extent to which you suffered physical injury because of a dangerous condition on another’s property. Moreover, if your injuries caused you to miss work, presenting leave and earning statements and documentation establishing how many days you missed work may be sufficient to establish that, in addition to suffering physical injuries, you suffered lost wages.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Premises Liability Case in Florida
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries while on another’s property in Florida? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Lawlor, White & Murphey represent clients injured because of dangerous or defective conditions on another’s property in Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, Weston, Pompano Beach, and throughout Florida. Call 954-525-2345 (South Florida) or 855-347-5475 (Toll Free) or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 2211 Davie Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312, as well as offices in Pembroke Pines, Weston, Coconut Creek, Pompano Beach, and Plantation.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.