Why Florida Crime Victims Can Sometimes Sue Property Owners for Not Protecting Them

Every year, there are more than 33,000 violent crimes reported in Florida. (The actual number is probably higher, as some violent crimes – particularly sexual assaults – go unreported.) Only a fraction of these cases will be prosecuted in a criminal court. But that may not be the only avenue for survivors to seek justice. Some crime victims may have grounds to sue the property owner where the attack occurred. Palm Beach injury lawyer premises liability dangerous property breakin

At first blush, that notion might seem a bit nonsensical. After all, the only person who is “guilty” is the one who actually carried out the attack, right?

Yes and no.

As our Palm Beach injury lawyers can explain, it’s true that the only person(s) who will be held criminally responsible (i.e., “guilty”) for a criminal act are those who were directly involved. However, civil claim liability can extend beyond that individual. In fact, most civil claims that stem from a criminal attack are filed against third parties – very often the property owner where the incident occurred.

Liability in these cases stems not from the act itself, but from the failure to protect lawful guests from risks that were reasonably foreseeable by the property owner. This is particularly true if those lawful guests are invited onsite by the property owner for the purpose of financial benefit to the property owner. (Ex: A paying hotel guest would be a “public invitee” who would be owed the highest duty of care and protection by that hotel/property manager.)

This duty of care stems from a few different sources. One is statute. For example, F.S. 83.51(2)(a) expressly requires landlords to comply with all applicable building, housing, and health codes and make reasonable provisions for (among other things) locks and keys. There’s also a common law duty of care, which requires any property owner/manager who invites or allows people onsite to maintain it in reasonably safe condition. That includes implementing adequate security measures and warn lawful guests about risks that might not be obvious to the guest. Depending on the site, that could mean locks, but also security cameras, hired security patrols, bright lighting or motion sensors, alarms when there are breaches, etc. They’re also expected to use care in hiring people who will have contact with or access to the public – particularly if they may be vulnerable targets for crime.

Whether a criminal incident was “foreseeable” will depend on several factors, including the type of property, the risks inherent with that kind of property, and previous reported incidents either on site or in close proximity. Property owners aren’t expected to have a crystal ball, but they are expected to exercise reasonable care.

Examples of crimes that Florida property owners could be sued for in civil court:

  • Sexual assaults
  • Shootings
  • Physical assault and battery
  • Robberies
  • Carjacking

Although our Palm Beach injury lawyers have seen many different property owners named in these types of premises liability claims, it’s often those that host members of the public, such as hotels, motels, bars, night clubs, restaurants, shopping centers, amusement parks, gas stations, convenience stores, etc.

If you are the victim of a crime that occurred on someone else’s property in South Florida, you may have grounds to take legal action against the property owner in a premises liability claim. Our Palm Beach injury lawyers can help you examine your legal options.

Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.

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What Happens if I’m in a Palm Beach Car Accident While Driving for Work? Feb. 24, 2024, Palm Beach Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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