For many, the holiday season means visits from family and friends. In some
cases however, these visits can turn inadvertently dangerous due to animal
bites, negligent care given to foreseeable structural dangers or inadequate
maintenance of the home and surrounding areas by owners or tenants.
Who is Responsible?
In general, to determine whether a homeowner is at fault requires a multi-step
analysis. First, a court must determine whether a plaintiff who seeks
to recover against a premises owner was an invitee, licensee, or trespasser
to the property. An invitee enjoys the highest level of care under the
law while trespassers are owed very little: an owner's sole duty towards
a trespasser is to refrain from inflicting "willful or wanton injury."
Moreover, Florida applies a "foreseeability" standard to premises
liability cases, particularly in situations where a crime has been committed.
That is, even if a plaintiff is able to demonstrate that he or she was
an "invitee," he or she must still prove that the crime itself
is one that a premises owner should have foreseen, for example, a robbery
that occurs at either a home or a commercial store.
The Third District Court of Appeals in Florida outlined a test to determine
foreseeability in the unique situation that a crime on the premises has
occurred. First, the court looks at the similarity of prior crimes, if
any. Second, the geographical proximity of prior crimes will be considered
and third, how frequent the prior crimes occurred and their temporal proximity
to the crime in the current case. However, this test has not been widely
adopted by other jurisdictions in Florida.
For injuries that occur at apartment complexes or condos managed by a
third party, a landlord is generally not responsible for the injuries
that a tenant's guest suffers as the property is considered to be
in the control of the tenant. However, when there are latent defects present
before the tenant took possession of the property and especially if these
defects are not easily visible or able to be detected, then the landlord
would also fall liable.
Nevertheless, plaintiffs must keep in mind that injured parties generally
cannot recover if they themselves were partially or fully responsible
for the injury. In addition, visitors also have a reasonable duty to keep
themselves safe and to exercise caution if they becomes aware of a danger.
Lastly, Florida has a four-year statute of limitations for torts such
as premises liability cases.
Insurance Covering Premises Liability
For homeowners, purchasing insurance is perhaps the best way to guard
against liability for injuries suffered by guests. However, homeowners
should also be aware that many insurance policies do not protect against
events deemed an "act of God," which usually refers to natural
disasters such as lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes but may include
injuries caused by falling trees. Typically, tree owners will be responsible
for maintaining the condition of their trees.
If you have been injured on someone else's property, you may be entitled
to compensation. However, fast action is needed to meet the statute of
limitations for filing a claim. Schedule a consultation today with the
Pittman Firm to speak with an attorney knowledgeable in Florida premises liability law.