What is a premises liability claim?
Florida law requires people to use due care in their daily activities. A premises liability claim addresses injury to a person or death that occurs because there is an unreasonably dangerous condition on someone else’s property.
Premises liability actions can happen because of a variety of facts. Below is a list of the most common premises liability actions in no particular order.
- Slip & Fall
- Trip & Fall
- Items Falling Off of Shelves in a Store
- Dangerous Nuisance
- Criminal Acts of Third Parties
- Swimming pool injuries
There are an infinite number of factual situations that may lead to a premises liability action. Here are a few of the scenarios:
- A customer trips and falls on water or another foreign object in a grocery store or other retail establishment.
- A customer trips and falls over a parking bumper or stop in a parking lot.
- A customer is hit by a car while walking into a business
- A customer is at Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, any big box store or warehouse club and merchandise falls off the shelf and injuries the customer
- A customer is mugged, raped, robbed or killed on commercial establishment’s property
- A student is sexually assaulted in her residential apartment near campus
- A visitor to somebody’s home falls over a sprinkler head or a hole in the grass
- A person falls and is injured in a parking lot because of poor or broken lighting
- A handle in a stairwell is in disrepair and breaks while walking up or down the stairs
- The stairs in a building are not uniform in size, shape and height
- Painted sidewalks do not have adequate slip resistant sand or materials allowing the area to become slippery when wet
- A worker in a business forgets to put out the wet floor sign when mopping
- A worker in a business doesn’t clean up excess wax or polish when buffing the floors
- A business allows the mat on the inside of the business to fold up or breakdown
Who can be held responsible for an injury on the premises?
Just like the infinite scenarios in which premises liability claims can arise, there are a number of people or entities that can be responsible for a person’s injury. Some of the responsible parties can include:
- An owner of a business
- The owner of the business property
- The manager of the business property
- An owner of residential property
- A tenant of residential property
- Vendors hired to maintain business properties
- Vendors hired to maintain residential properties
- Vendors hired to maintain subdivisions
- Vendors hired to maintain parks and other recreational facilities
- A state entity including municipalities
- The federal government
- The injured person
How do you determine if one of the above entities or people are responsible for your premises liability injury? It’s all about the relationship and whether the injury or problems is foreseeable. In legal terms – IT’S ALL ABOUT DUTY -DOES THE landowner, landlord, tenant OWE YOU A DUTY OF CARE?
What is the duty of care in a Florida premises liability matter?
I’m glad you asked that question, the duty of care depends on the nature of the relationship. Said another way, The duty of care that an owner or occupier of land owes to another person depends on how the relationship is classified. In Florida, there are three main classifications that dictate the landowner’s duty: (1) invitee; (2) licensee; and (3) trespasser.
A landowner or occupier owes the lowest duty of care to a trespasser. A trespasser is a person who should not be on the owner’s property. In these situations, the landowner has the duty to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring the trespasser after discovering his presence. The attractive nuisance doctrine, deals with times when children will trespass on someone else’s property to use something on the property. As an example, children trespass on somebody’s land to swim in a lake. In these situations, the landowner’s duty is slightly different and discussion of this doctrine is beyond the scope of this work.
A landowner owes a slightly higher duty to licensees. The duty requires the landowner to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring the licensee or acting in a manner that would increase the licensee’s peril. Additionally, the landowner or occupier has a duty to warn the licensee of any latent dangers on the property.
In most cases, the relationship is that of an INVITEE or BUSINESS INVITEE. A landowner or occupier of land owes the highest duty to an invitee. An invitee is somebody who enters the land either as an invited (social) guest or for some business purpose. The landowner owes the invitee a duty (1) to use ordinary care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition; and (2) to give notice of any latent or concealed hazards that are known or should be known to the owner. Stated in plain English, the duty is to make sure that the property or parts of the property are not unreasonably dangerous and also to warn the invitee of any known problems (i.e. putting out a wet floor sign).
Slip and Falls on a Transitory Foreign Substance?
What is a transitory foreign substance? A foreign transitory substance is a product, like water, oil, milk, juice, that shouldn’t be on the floor. The product is easily cleaned up, unlike a crack in the sidewalk. Over the years, Florida law has been all over the place, regarding the standard that landowner’s must follow when it comes to a transitory substance.
Today, the standard is pretty difficult for an injured person to meet. The law says this:
- If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance ina 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 known may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that:
- The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary case, the business establishment should have known of the condition; or
- The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
This means that if someone is injured because of a fall on a business premises that they must make sure any video of the area and photos of the area are preserved from day one. This burden is on the injured person NOT this business.
What type of compensation is available in Florida premises liability cases?
The law allows a person who has been injured because of negligence to receive compensation for a number of categories of damages. Damages are generally classified as economic and noneconomic.
Economic damages are:
- Past medical and hospital bills
- Future medical and hospital bills, if any anticipated
- Past lost wages, if any
- Future loss of earning capacity, if any
Non-economic damages include:
- Past physical and mental pain and suffering
- Future physical and mental pain and suffering
- Scarring, humiliation, and loss of enjoyment of life
If the injured person died because of the injuries sustained in the incident, the damages will be governed by Florida’s Wrongful Death Act. For more information, be sure to contact our offices with any questions about your premises liability case.