Florida personal injury claims for premises liability – that is, the duty owed by property owners to those who enter – often hinge on the role of the claimant. That is, were they invited as a member of the public or for the financial benefit of the property owner? They’re invitees, owed the highest duty of care. Were they welcomed or allowed onsite as a social guest or of their own volition for their own convenience? They’re licensees, owed a moderate duty of care. Or were they trespassers? With the exception of some situations involving children, these individuals are owed the lowest degree of care.
So while property owners do have a responsibility to keep their site reasonably safe, measuring the reasonableness of their actions (or lack thereof) usually comes down to what the injured party was doing there in the first place.
Invitees would include shoppers at a grocery store, fans at a rock concert, a package delivery person, or residents attending a city council meeting. The specific duty of care owed to invitees in Florida is to maintain the property in reasonably safe condition AND to warn of any known hazards that could cause harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to discover and fix any dangerous conditions on the property. As our West Palm Beach injury lawyers can explain, property owners are expected to exercise ordinary care in maintaining the premises, which means acting in a reasonably prudent manner to prevent foreseeable injuries to invitees.
Licensees are those who enter a property with the owner’s permission, but for their own purposes. As noted in the 1953 Florida Supreme Court ruling in Stewart v. Texas Co., the owner owes no duty to licensees beyond not willfully or wantonly causing harm or setting traps or intentionally expose them to danger. Property owners do not have a duty to keep the premises safe for those who come there solely for their own convenience or pleasure, yet aren’t expressly invited or induced – even though entry is permitted. Active vigilance to keep the property safe isn’t required of property owners for licensees.
Trespassers, similarly, are not owed a duty of care beyond not being intentionally exposed to harm. (The exception is young children under the attractive nuisance doctrine, occurring when a feature of the site is attractive to youths who don’t fully understand the danger.)
It’s important to note that the specific circumstances of each case can affect the application of the duty of care. Different types of properties, such as residential, commercial, or recreational, may have varying standards of care depending on the nature of the premises and the activities taking place. Continue reading