Florida Accidents and Premises Liability: Who is Responsible?
Simply put, in Florida the person who is responsible for maintaining a property in safe condition (the controller) is liable if someone is injured due to negligent maintenance. That person could be the property owner, occupier, or tenant. A Florida premises liability lawsuit could name any of those individuals. In a Florida shopping mall, the management company may be responsible for the common areas while the individual store owners must maintain their shops in a safe condition.
In Florida, the duty that the controller owes to the person who comes on the premises depends on why the person injured comes. Visitors fall into three groups.
A business invitee visits a property for business purposes. If a person comes into a shop to ask if they can put a poster in the window, they might not qualify as a business invitee since their purpose was not to benefit the shop by purchasing anything or even looking at merchandise.
Controllers of property owe the highest duty of care to business invitees. They must keep the property in a safe condition and warn invitees of any danger the owner knows or should know about. This includes the duty to regularly inspect the property. If a customer slips in a grocery store, the store must show that employees inspected the aisles regularly to check for foreign substances and that even with careful and frequent inspections they were unable to prevent the accident.
People who come to a property for social reasons are called licensees. These are social guests who come at the real or implied invitation of the property owner or occupier. The invitation might be implied, when a friend or relative drops in unexpectedly for example. These kinds of visitors are still considered invited guests.
The controller of the property is expected to repair any unsafe conditions or warn an invitee about dangers that exist.
Finally, there are trespassers, those who enter a property without permission from the property owner or controller. They may be taking the shortest route to an adjacent property or maybe they intend to steal something. Whatever their purpose, they are all entitled to some degree of protection. The controller of the property must not intentionally or recklessly injure them.
If the trespassers are children, however, a different rule applies. Children are curious and aren’t able to judge dangerous situations as adults do. A property’s controller is liable for a child’s injuries if there is anything dangerous on the property and children are known to come or can be expected to come there. An obvious example of a potential hazard to a child is a swimming pool. Others might be an old refrigerator a child could get locked inside, a piece of machinery that children might use to climb on, or a riding mower a child might try to drive.
This rule applies only to man-made situations. A controller of the property isn’t responsible for protecting adults or children from natural dangers on the property, like a lake, a river, or rocks or trees someone might try to climb.
Florida has a recreational use statute that protects owners from some forms of liability if their property is open as a park or is leased to the state.