When is the property owner responsible for any injuries you receive while on his/her property?
Under Florida law, probably more than 90% of the time. Whether you were an “invitee,” a “licensee” or even a “trespasser,” the property owner generally will have some (if not all) responsibility for any premises injuries you receive while on the property.
An “invitee” is someone who is on the property because the owner invited them to be on the property, either through direct invitation or through belief that the property is open for their use.
Individuals under this definition may include business customers (shoppers at Wal-Mart), visitors to public places (museums or parks), and guests (social gatherings). Generally, if the property is open to the public and the property owner invites the public inside, the public is considered an “invitee.”
A “licensee” is someone who is on the property for purposes that directly benefit him/her and not the business. An example of a “licensee” is someone who goes into a store only to get change for a parking meter and not to shop, but slips and falls on some water on the floor. If there were no warning signs of the dangerous condition, the property owner could be held responsible to the person under the “licensee” definition.
Under some circumstances, persons can also be considered “uninvited licensees” (persons who just loiter around the property and the property owner is aware of their presence).
A “trespasser” is someone who is on the property without invitation or license (as discussed above) from the property owner and is on the property strictly for his/her own self-interest.
It’s important to understand the definition of a “trespasser” because the law looks at the duties of the property owner differently depending on the classification of the person on the property who is injured.
For example, a landowner is not responsible for a slip and fall accident if the person who fell is considered a trespasser.
But the property owner has certain legal responsibilities regardless of the status of the person entering upon the property. Some of these responsibilities include:
- proper notice of any dangerous conditions of which the property owner may be aware;
- keeping the property in a reasonably safe condition;
- proper posting of “no trespassing” signs or warning of harmful or dangerous conditions regarding the property; and,
- not creating a dangerous or harmful condition on the property, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Children Who Trespass
Under certain circumstances, property owners must abide by a higher standard of care when it comes to keeping their property safe from children and minors. Since children and minors generally do not have the ability to recognize conditions that may be dangerous or harmful, Florida has a special law that applies to children and minors who trespass – the “Attractive Nuisance Doctrine.”
An “Attractive Nuisance” can be an abandoned icebox, machinery, farm equipment, things that pose a danger, but because of their young age, children may not be able to understand.
The circumstances for applying this doctrine can be quite complex and the property owner has certain responsibilities to keep his property safe-guarded from children trespassing onto his property. This is extremely important particularly if he knows or should know that children are highly likely to trespass onto his property because of its proximity to a grammar school or playground, for example.
Children do not need to recognize the nuisance’s danger – if the nuisance is what attracted the child to the property (abandoned washing machine or refrigerator), generally the property owner is responsible for any harm or injury to the child.
In applying the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine, there is no age limit of the child or minor; rather, the courts looks at a number of criteria for determining whether this doctrine can be applied (age, intelligence, knowledge and experience).
In the Lake City area, a recent case illustrates this point. Youngsters and teenagers were known to be in the area of a train trestle in Green Cove Springs. One high school football player was on the trestle and was run over and killed by a train while fishing at night.
The question in this case will be – were there no trespassing signs? What efforts did the locomotive operator make to watch out for people on the tracks or slow down? Were the gates around the tracks properly secured to keep out trespassers?
An argument by the railroad that the train was abiding by the speed limit and all the rules may not be enough to absolve the company of responsibility if they knew or should have known that citizens could be on the railroad tracks.
Trespassers Under The Influence
Another issue concerning trespassers is those who are under the influence of alcohol with a blood level of .08 or higher, the standard for legally intoxicated.
Florida Statute 768.075 essentially gives property owners blanket immunity when the trespasser is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The property owner may have limited responsibility for any civil damages if a trespasser is injured in this circumstance, assuming they are not guilty of gross negligence or intentional misconduct in maintaining the property and keeping it in a reasonably safe condition.
A good guideline is that property owners have a responsibility to visitors – whether they are invited or not.
Contact Our Winter Park Trespasser Liability Attorneys Today
If you have been injured as a result of a violent crime on a commercial property, contact our personal injury lawyers in Winter Park for a free evaluation of your claim.