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Understanding Florida Premises Liability

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Posted on January 27, 2014


Florida homeowners, private property owners, and commercial property owners are subject to liability provisions under premises law. All Florida residents share certain common responsibilities for the general safety of any person who enters their property including a home, retail store, or office. Homeowners and landowners are responsible for maintaining the conditions of each square foot of a lot.

In most cases, homeowners have a duty to repair any known hazards, such as loose stairs or broken railings. If a homeowner knows of such a danger and must wait to make the repair, he/she must cordon off the danger or posts signs to warn any visitors of the condition. Landowners must keep their property free of obvious hazards and dangerous conditions and may not set traps capable of inflicting serious bodily injury.

Premises liability extends over all areas of property ownership. It involves any injuries from negligent conditions on the premises of hotels, apartment complexes, shopping centers, and office buildings. All property owning entities and lessees share some liability. If someone is injured on a commercial property, damages could be apportioned to business lessees and the property owner.

Classifications of Visitor – Separated by Property Owner Responsibility

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:

  1. Business Invitees: For businesses and stores, any person entering the premises for purposes related to that business are considered to be business invitees. Repairmen and utility workers fall under this classification for a homeowner. A homeowner bears the duty to inspect for dangerous conditions that could cause injury to business invitees.
  2. Licensees: This term applies to homeowners who entertain guests. Friends or family members, whether invited or uninvited, who are on the property for social, non-business purposes are licensees. A person visiting a family member at his/her place of employment could also be considered to be 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.
  3. Trespassers: A person without permission to be on private land still has basic rights. Property owners may not set up intentional booby traps capable of deadly force to deter trespassers. If a property owner discovers a trespasser, he/she does have a duty to warn him/her of any known dangers otherwise undetectable through ordinary observation.

Special Exceptions for Children

Florida 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 with swimming pools, trampolines, or old appliances or cars on their property.

These conditions can entice curious children. 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.