Understanding Premises Liability
In the state of Florida, all private and commercial property owners are subject to certain liability provisions defined by state premises law. They are responsible for the general safety of any person who enters their property, whether it is a home, retail location or office. If someone is injured on a commercial property, damages could be apportioned to business lessees and the property owner.
Private and commercial property owners are responsible for the varying levels of safety for anyone who enters their property according to three different classifications of visitors:
I. Business Invitees: For businesses and stores, any person entering the premises for purposes related to that business is considered a business invitees. Repairmen and utility workers fall under this classification with regard to a private residence. A homeowner bears the duty to inspect for dangerous conditions that could cause injury to business invitees.
II. Licensees: This term applies to guests who enter the property of a private residence. Friends or family members who are on the homeowner’s property for social purposes are considered licensees. A person visiting a family member at his/her place of employment could also be considered a licensee in the event he/she is hurt and files a personal injury claim. A property owner bears the duty to repair any unsafe conditions as well as an obligation to warn visitors of known dangers.
III. Trespassers: A person without permission to be on privately owned land still has a few basic rights. Property owners may not set up booby traps capable of deadly force to deter trespassers. If a property owner discovers a trespasser, he/she does bear the duty to warn him/her of any known dangers otherwise undetectable through ordinary observation
Exceptions for Children
Florida state law provides special protection to children on the basis that they are not able to decipher between right and wrong. This exception is called the attractive nuisance doctrine. This doctrine applies specifically to homeowners who have swimming pools, trampolines, old appliances or cars on their property.
These conditions might entice young children. So homeowners are responsible for removing or otherwise locking and securing these items. Locks, perimeter fences, and secured gates are acceptable means in most cases. If a child is injured or killed after falling into an unfenced swimming pool, that property owner could be held liable for damages.
Regardless of the visitor’s classification or age, property owners should always inspect and repair any known hazards to prevent an injury from occurring.