Miami Premises Liability Attorney
The property owner of any establishment, whether it be a residential house, or a corporate business, is always liable for injuries or accidents which occur on the premises. Property owners have a very high standard of care to protect their visitors from unforeseen and hidden dangers, and must be able to predict what accidents may occur to their guests. If you or a loved one have been injured on another’s property, you may be entitled to bring a claim for damages.
The earliest forms of tort law (now personal injury law) emerged several years ago in England, along with the development of negligence and so-called strict negligence. The early forms of tort law evolved throughout American courts to develop into premises liability and the obligation of property owners to take steps to protect their visitors.
Early English common law held that there was no legal duty for a property owner to take steps to protect visitors on their property from things such as criminal activities. Instead, the property owner who was engaged in a type of trade, such as a blacksmith, had a legal duty to ensure that his products would not harm a person. Many of the early English common law relationships concerned the relationship between an innkeeper and his guests, creating a special relationship between the guests to protect them from harm.
American law developed further duties on behalf of the property owner, although in the early years of this legal theory, many states remained firm in the theory that property owners did not have a duty to protect against criminal acts. The further development of premises liability law in the 20th century placed a new duty on property owners, thereby creating the special relationships between a property owner and property visitors. Restaurants, college campuses, retail shops, office buildings, and service stations became liable for the actions of another on their property, or for hidden dangers on their property which led to injuries.
What is my Status?
Florida follows the general common law format of property law, and divides the type of visitor into three categories:
Each category has a different series of protections and duties by the property owner.
The invitee is offered the greatest protection by a property owner, although is divided into two subcategories of “business invitee” and “public invitee.” A public invitee is invited onto the property as a general member of the public during a public event (such as a concert, museum visitor, or amusement park visitor). A business invitee is a person who is invited onto the property to conduct business dealings with the property owner. An invitee is afforded the greatest protection by the owner of the property, and it is therefore important to determine your status when making a premises liability claim. The property owner not only must maintain the property in reasonably safe condition, but they also must warn the invitee of dangers which the property owner knew or should have known of. This duty of care extends to a guest on the property who is considered a “licensee by invitation.”
The licensee is not afforded all the protections of the invitee and is often termed the “uninvited licensee.” A licensee is a person who comes onto the property without invitation, express or implied, for their own convenience. Therefore, a property owner is not required to keep the premises in a safe condition for a licensee. However, a property owner must warn of any hidden dangers, such as any concealed traps which might exist on the property.
A trespasser is awarded the least amount of protection by the property owner and is described by law to include a person who enters the premises of another without invitation. However, a property owner still has the same duty of care to warn against any hidden dangers, or so-called attractive nuisances on the property.
Negligent Security and Shootings
Florida law is unfortunately unsettled regarding the liability of a property owner for third-party criminal activities. Appellate courts are divided over the issue of a “foreseeable crime” that happens on a property by a third party. For example, an appellate court in Miami-Dade County found that a criminal action (assault at a gas station) was a foreseeable crime which could have been prevented by the actions of the property owner. Therefore, the property owner was found liable for the resulting injuries. However, this was in contradiction to what other Florida appellate courts have found – essentially that assault is not a foreseeable crime and therefore a property owner should not be liable for the resulting injuries. The divergence in opinion as to whether a property owner is liable for criminal activities, such as a shooting, often stems from the person’s status on the property. Certain Florida appellate courts have found that a property owner is not liable for injuries when a person is a trespasser on the property and becomes the target of criminal activity. However, a property owner is liable for criminal activities that occur to a visitor, or invitee, on their property.
One of the main sources of disagreement between the different courts in Florida is whether the criminal activity is one that was foreseeable, and whether the property owner knew or should have known that criminal activity was likely. The instance of security guards on the property may assist the property owner’s claims that they were adequately protecting their visitors. However, property owners also have a duty to ensure any security guards they hire are well-experienced and able to protect their guests. The hiring of a negligent security guard could result in a claim against the property owner for their negligent hiring. A security guard should be able to protect a visitor from criminal activity, or prevent the criminal activity from occurring in its entirety.
Trip and Fall
One of the most common types of accidents in premises liability claims involve the slip and fall, or trip and fall accidents. Property owners have a duty of care to their invitees to ensure the property is free from dangers, which can include:
- Rusty stairs/bannisters
- Nails protruding from floorboards
Property owners have a duty to inspect their property and properly maintain the property to ensure that any invitees to their property will be free from injuries. The failure to protect visitors to their property could lead to terrible accidents and resulting liability. While the majority of claims involve accidents that occur at commercial establishments, it is important for the victim of a premises liability action to remember that accidents often occur on residential properties. Residential property owners have the same duty to protect their guests from dangerous or defective conditions on their property which they knew or should have known on. Every property owner has a reasonable duty to protect all guests on their property from these dangers. This duty extends down to even trespassers in the case of hidden dangers which could be evidenced by a sign – such as a sign warning of a “dangerous dog.”
Hotel Injuries and Hotel Security
The earliest forms of premises liability included the duty owed by an innkeeper to their guests on the property. While these early English common law cases involved the instance of criminal activity on the property, 20th century American law expanded on this notion to include the duty of a hotel to protect its guests from latent property injuries. These injuries could stem from dangerous conditions on the property, including:
- Defective flooring/stairs
- Criminal activity
Hotel guests are afforded some of the highest forms of protection from the hotel, as paying guests, and therefore any injury which occurs on the property should be discussed with a personal injury attorney. Hotels often represent a “home away from home” while on vacation, and an accident on the premises not only injures the victim, but may also cut a long-awaited vacation short.
Water Park and Amusement Park Negligence
With the arrival of summer comes the opening up of waterparks and amusement parks throughout the state of Florida, as families rush in from across the state to partake in the rides and adventures. Many families spend months saving up for a weekend at some of the top amusement parks and waterparks in the state, and the inclusion of a devastating accident is often not considered as a possibility while on vacation. Unfortunately, accidents are more prominent than many people think. While these may not be large-scale accidents involving rides going off their tracks, the parks still have a duty to protect its visitors from hidden dangers around the park, or defective park items. The park may warn through signs that prevent people from entering certain areas, or through verbal warnings upon park entrance. The failure to warn or protect visitors from these dangers could lead to terrible injuries and the park’s resulting liability.
Shopping Mall Negligence
Shopping malls are among the highest visited properties throughout the country. Most shopping malls take extreme precautions to protect their visitors, including hiring security guards for different stores and mall “wings,” and ongoing surveillance. However, mall security does not always protect against structural deficiencies which can lead to extreme injuries, such as items on the floor, spills, or damages to the property itself. Shopping mall owners must take extreme precautions, considering the number of people who visit the malls each day, in ensuring that the entire property is in working order. Any defects must be addressed immediately, or communicated to the general public to avoid an injury from occurring. The failure to warn the shopping mall visitors, who are considered invitees, could result in terrible accidents and resulting liability against the shopping mall.
Lipcon & Lipcon | Miami, Florida Premise Liability Attorneys
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident on someone else’s property, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys of Lipcon & Lipcon. Florida is a comparative negligence state, which means that a victim will be able to recovery against the responsible party after an accident occurs. However, the percentage of the victim’s fault will be considered by a court in determining the amount of damages which should be awarded. For example, if the victim is determined to be 25 percent at fault for a premises liability accident, the damages may be capped at a total of 75 percent.
The attorneys of Lipcon & Lipcon have years of experience in handling premises liability claims, and will work closely with you and your family after a preventable accident occurs. As the visitor on property, commercial or residential, you are entitled to the utmost protection from the property owner and do not expect to be hunting for dangerous or defective conditions. The failure to correct a defective condition or alert a visitor to the danger means that the property owner failed to uphold their duty of care, and can therefore be held responsible for the resulting injuries. Contact our Miami office today for your initial free consultation.