In Florida, a landowner or property owner has a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, or, in other words, make sure the place is safe. They also have a duty to warn you about “concealed perils,” or hidden dangers. While these two theories of liability may sometimes overlap, they are separate and distinct from one and other.
So, do you have a case? The first question that has to be answered is whether or not you had permission to be on the property in the first place.
Are You An Invitee, Licensee, or Trespasser?
Florida law separates visitors into three different categories: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Florida Standard Jury Instruction 401.16 helps define each of these categories.
Someone who is invited on to the premises is an invitee or licensee. Under Florida law these two categories are treated nearly the same. You can be invited onto the premises either expressly (“Hey, come on in!”), or impliedly (a gas station with an “open” sign in the window). So long as you use the premises in a reasonable manner, or in a way that the owner would expect, you will be considered an invitee or licensee as long as you are there. This means that you are legally allowed to be there and because you are legally allowed to be there, the owner of the premises has a duty to make sure that the place is safe and to warn you about potential dangers.
If you are trespassing – meaning you do not have the right to be where you are – the law does not provide you the same protections as someone who was invited in, but the law does not completely abandon you.
What Duties Are Owed To You By The Owner?
So, assuming that you are legally allowed to be on the property, what duties does the owner of the premises owe you? Florida Standard Jury Instruction 401.20 is a good start. As mentioned above, the first obligation an owner has is to make sure the place is safe. This obligation comes in all shapes and sizes, whether it is proper lighting in a parking lot or stairwell, making sure store displays are secured, the possibilities are vast.
The second duty you are owed is for the owner to put you on notice of hidden dangers that they are more likely to be aware of than you are. Think of this as the leaking roof that gets the floor wet, or the spilled milk in the aisle of the grocery store. Florida Statute 768.0755. There are also other situations where people have a duty to protect you while you are on the property. For example, your landlord has an obligation to inspect the property for safety before turning it over to you, and to repair dangers once you let them know they are there. Florida Statute 83.51.
As you can tell, figuring out whether or not you have a “premises liability” claim can get complicated, which is why it is always a good idea to contact an attorney who knows this area of the law.
Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation to see if you are entitled to recovery for your accident.