What Does a Premises Liability Lawsuit Cover?

by Oct 30, 2019Premises Liability

What Does a Premises Liability Lawsuit Cover?

by Oct 30, 2019Premises Liability

What a Premises Liability Lawsuit Covers
What a Premises Liability Lawsuit Covers

In a premises liability lawsuit, you seek recovery for damages from hazardous or unsafe conditions on the defendant’s property. As with personal injury cases in general, you must do more than prove you were hurt. Specifically, the owner or person in control must have violated a duty to maintain the property in a safe condition or warn you of potentially harmful conditions on the property. In other words, a premises liability case is essentially a negligence case.

What Conditions May Be Unsafe or Hazardous?

Slips and Falls. Commonly, premises liability cases arise from conditions that cause people to trip, slip, or fall. Retailers selling beverages, liquid cleaners, and oils may create hazards by allowing spilled liquids to remain on aisles. Wet restrooms may cause customers or other visitors to slip and fall. You might also fall from solid objects allowed to remain on the ground.

Generally, courts in these slip and fall cases look for whether the property owner knew or should have known about the hazard. As you may expect, the store owner or property owner will not admit to knowing about it. Hence, a premises liability lawyer will want evidence that the liquid or solid remained on the floor for a long time, that someone told the manager or another employee about the spill, or that it was announced on the intercom. Some of the evidence might come from a store camera or statements about the incident.

Falls from Outside Elements. Inadequate lighting can obscure curbs, cracks, or holes in sidewalks or parking lots, uneven surfaces, barriers, or other objects that cause you to trip or fall.

Lack of Security. An absence of sufficient lighting may invite a premises liability lawsuit based on the failure of the defendant to adequately protect patrons from criminal activity. Property owners must take reasonable precautions to prevent criminal activity, but what is reasonable may differ between residential property owners and owners or controllers of commercial property such as shopping centers, stores, resorts, and parks.

If a criminal has victimized you on another’s premises, your claim comes down to whether the owner could have foreseen the criminal activity and whether the owner had reasonable protective measures in place. Proof of the former may come from law enforcement reports of incidents on the property or in very close proximity or from incidents reported by the property owner.

In a premises liability lawsuit based on lack of security, you seek to hold the owner responsible for the criminal activity of a third person. Florida courts may relieve convenience stores of liability for such conduct by a criminal where the owner does the following:

  • Installs and uses a security camera
  • Displays a sign that says the store keeps less than $50 in the cash register
  • Uses a drop safe for money or other valuable items
  • Illuminates the parking lot at least two foot-candles for every square foot at 18 inches above the ground
  • Leaves views to the cash register or sales transaction areas unobstructed by signage

Convenience stores in which robberies or murders have occurred at least one of the following measures:

  • Not open from 11 to 5 a.m.
  • Lock the doors between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., and limit business to trapdoors, windows, or indirect pass-throughs
  • Have a security guard between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Maintain at least two employees between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Animal bites. Not all premises liability cases require a showing of negligence. Florida imposes strict liability upon an owner whose dog bites you, so long as you had permission to be on the property. This means you don’t need proof of dangerous propensities or that it was not reasonable for you to put a dog on a leash.

Animals may also injure you by running loose and either knocking you down or causing you to stumble. In these cases, the strict liability dog bite statute does not avail you. Instead, you must prove that the owner failed to exercise reasonable care in restraining the animal.

Swimming pools. The level of care for owners with swimming pools depends significantly upon the users of it. Private landowners must warn their guests of any insecure or other unsafe conditions and must afford adequate covers and barriers to prevent children from wandering into the pool. For swimming pools open to the public, owners generally must have trained lifeguards, life preservers, and rescue gear. State or local regulations may impose many standards for public pools.

Who is Covered By Premises Liability Law?

The duty that a premises owner owes you turns on why you’re own the property. Generally, trespassers have the least protection among those injured by unsafe conditions. For a trespasser, the duty extends to not acting wantonly or willfully. If you trespassed and the owner discovers you, then you might have a claim if the owner failed to warn you of unsafe conditions.

Landowners have heightened duty when it comes to your children. If your child dies or suffers injury from unsafe conditions, a premises liability lawyer can present a claim based on the “attractive nuisance doctrine.” This applies when the landowner creates something that draws a child for play, such as a swimming pool, construction equipment or debris, trampolines, or other playground equipment and pits. Liability is based upon the owner’s failure to take reasonable steps to prevent access by the child.

If you’re deemed to be a licensee, the landowner must warn against hazards not apparent to you. Florida law defines a licensee for premises liability purposes as one who enters another’s property with permission, but not by invitation of the owner or for accomplishing the owner’s intentions for the person’s presence. Normally, a licensee enters for his or her pleasure or enjoyment.

The duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent unsafe conditions is reserved generally for invitees. You have the status of the invitee if the owner has invited you. The invite can come expressly or by implication, such as if you are a customer or patron.

Who May Be Liable for Premises Liability?

You may look to the landowner for compensation. In many cases, a premises liability case does not stop with the property owner. The party that created the hazard may not be the owner, but a tenant such as the resident, store, or other business owners.

If you or a loved one have been injured by an unsafe condition on a property, see a personal injury lawyer with experience in premises liability cases. The Bodden and Bennett Law Group will help you get the compensation that you deserve.

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