The term “premises liability” is legalese for an area of the law that deals with who is responsible when someone is hurt on property belonging to someone else. In general, when someone owns a property, they have a duty to keep the property safe for those who enter the property. This concept is known as duty of care, and it applies in differing degrees based on the reason that the injured person was on the property to begin with – and more specifically, the person’s status as a licensee, invitee or trespasser.
A licensee enters the premises for a specific purpose, such as when a patient goes to a hospital ER or a customer goes into a shop to make a purchase. Property owners have a duty of care to warn the licensee of any known dangers that the licensee might encounter. By contrast, an invitee has an invitation by the owner, such as when a property owner hosts a picnic and invites his neighbors to attend. Invitees are also offered the highest possible duty of care.
Trespassers are a different story. They are not invited and have no purpose being on the property, other than their own advantages. And as such, a duty of care to them is very limited in scope. One easy way to understand premises liability when it comes to trespassers is to look at the case of Katko v. Briney. Briney owned a boarded-up farmhouse that he didn’t want anyone to burglarize, so he rigged it up with a shotgun aimed at the legs of anyone who broke inside. Katko broke in, and the shotgun trap worked as planned, causing significant wounds to the intruder’s legs. The issue then became whether or not Briney could use deadly force in order to protect an empty property from intruders. The court ruled that he could not; while he didn’t have to make it safe for them, he could not employ deadly traps against trespassers. In other words, the property owner owned Katko a duty of care. In Florida, this is the only duty owed by property owners to those who trespass on their properties, provided the trespasser is not a child.
The law of attractive nuisance applies to children, and it can make property owners liable if a child suffers physical harm as a trespasser. Swimming pools, trampolines, abandoned vehicles and other potentially dangerous items that might attract young children and cause them harm fall under this law. Property owners must mitigate the danger of these nuisances; for example, erecting a fence around a backyard pool to keep neighborhood kids from wandering over and drowning.
From slip and falls on wet floors in a supermarket to falling down a stairwell due to a broken step, the scenarios that could result in a premises liability claim are broad and wide-ranging. If you believe you have grounds for a Weston premises liability claim, speak to our legal team at the Law Office of Bradley S. Hartman right away. Our seasoned attorneys will review your case at no cost and help you figure out whether or not your claim is warranted and what steps you need to take to move forward and collect compensation.