What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a form of personal injury arising out of a property owner’s negligence. If you have been hurt on someone else’s property, you may be able to recover compensation for the damages you have suffered.
Elements of a premises liability claim
A premises liability claim is essentially a negligence claim. To prove negligence an injured party must show:
- the existence of a duty of care owed by the defendant;
- a breach of that duty of care; and
- actual damages caused by the breach of duty.
Generally, a property owner owes a duty of care to visitors to make sure that the property is safe. This duty falls on homeowners, small business owners, managers of large commercial properties, stores, hotels, and so forth. It may also fall on a business owner renting a property, such as in a strip mall. The duty covers not only a property’s interior, but the surrounding areas as well (for example, parking lots, walkways and entrances).
A property owner’s duty of care
The duty of care a property owner owes to a visitor depends on the relationship between owner and visitor. (See Florida Bar Journal, Premises Liability: A Notable Rift in the Law of Foreseeable Crimes.) Generally, a visitor is one of the following:
- Public invitee;
- Business invitee;
- Licensee by invitation;
- Uninvited licensee; or
Public or business invitee
The highest standard of care is owed to a public or business invitee. A public invitee is one who is invited to enter into a place for a purpose for which the location is generally held open to the public. A business invitee is an individual who comes onto a property for commercial reasons – for example, a store customer, a restaurant diner, or a hotel guest. Generally, an owner’s duty is to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. A property owner is liable to an invitee for actual harm caused by a condition of the property if the owner:
- knows or should know of the condition, and should have realized that the condition could present an unreasonable risk of harm to invitees;
- should have expected that an invitee would not have discovered the danger for herself, or would fail to protect herself from it; and
- fails to exercise reasonable care to protect invitees from the danger.
The mere fact that a dangerous condition existed and caused harm does not by itself prove premises liability. The invitee must prove that the business owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition.
A property owner owes essentially the same duty of care to licensees by invitation as to invitees. (See Wood v. Camp, 284 So.2d 691 (1973)). Licensees are social guests.
Uninvited licensees and trespassers
An uninvited licensee is someone on the property for his or her own purposes. Trespassers are those on the premises without permission, and the owner owes them the lowest duty of care. A property owner has a duty of care to uninvited licensees and trespassers to refrain from intentional or reckless injury. For example, an owner cannot set up a trap designed to harm an unwary trespasser.
Consult a Florida premises liability lawyer
If you or someone you love has been injured on someone else’s property, contact the skilled premises liability lawyers of Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC, today for a consultation. Our firm was founded in West Palm Beach nearly 95 years ago, and our experienced lawyers will zealously advocate for you from the beginning of your case all the way through to trial.