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.
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.