Premises Liability typically refers to the negligence of a property or business owner. Examples of these types of cases are Slip and Falls, Trip and Falls, Negligent Security, Code Violations resulting in injury or death by the failure to maintain property, failure to correct dangerous conditions, failure to warn of dangerous conditions.
The idea behind premises liability is that the owner of a property, and/or the person in control of that property, has a duty to insure that the premises of that property are safe for others, or at a minimum to warn others of potentially dangerous or hazardous conditions. There are various levels of duty depending on who the injured person is. If the injured person has been invited onto the premises by a business (like a retail shopper), they are a business invitee and are owed the highest duty. If the person is a trespasser, then a duty is still owed, but that duty is much less. In most cases, regardless of a injured person’s status, a landowner still owes some duty to maintain a safe premises to the public. It is important to immediately take as many pictures as you can in order to preserve the evidence of the dangerous condition as much as possible. When you are injured, this can be difficult to do. Ask someone to help you and take pictures for you.
SLIP AND FALLS
The Florida statute on slip and falls involving a transitory substance is below:
F.S. 768.0755. Premises liability for transitory foreign substances in a business establishment
- If a person slips and falls on a transitory foreign substance in a business establishment, the injured person must prove that the business establishment had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and should have taken action to remedy it. Constructive knowledge may be proven by circumstantial evidence showing that:
- The dangerous condition existed for such a length of time that, in the exercise of ordinary care, the business establishment should have known of the condition; or
- The condition occurred with regularity and was therefore foreseeable.
- This section does not affect any common-law duty of care owed by a person or entity in possession or control of a business premises.
These cases usually involve a person slipping one something that has leaked or been spilled onto the floor. Examples of cases we have handled involving slip and falls:
- Cleaning company at a bank spills soap (a clear liquid) on the floor at night. The next day, the Plaintiff (our client) comes to work and slips on the soap, falling and injuring herself severely. Cleaning company was liable for her damages (client also had a workers’ compensation claim as a result).
- Grocery store employee leaves a cart with frozen food on it out too long. The food begins to defrost and leaks water on the floor. Plaintiff (our client) slips and falls on the water, injuring herself severely. Grocery store was liable for her damages.
TRIP AND FALLS
While “trip and falls” can involve a transitory substance, as in a slip and fall, they often involve uneven surfaces, or hidden fixtures, that can catch your foot as you are walking. Examples are cracks in floor or pavement, uneven stairs, steps that are of inconsistent heights, fixtures that are not readily visible due to poor lighting or other obstructions. These claims usually require immediate preservation of evidence (pictures, often with a tape measure to show the degree of the flaw). Many times, failing to act quickly results in the Defendant repairing the condition before an investigation can be made. This ends up being the subject of much litigation and dispute, which is why it is important to take as many pictures as you yourself can, and hire a lawyer who may send an investigator out to take professional pictures.
Sometimes, premises liability cases can involve a violation of a city or county building code.
Here are are some examples of premises liability cases involving code violations we have handled in the past:
- Business uses indoor tile under an awning at the entrance to their store, in violation of Pinellas County Code. Rain causes the indoor tile to become abnormally slippery. Plaintiff slips and falls on the tile that was wet from the rain, severely injuring his back. Tile should have been skid resistant. Business owner is liable for the damages.
- Power company runs a “service drop” (power line from pole to building) too close to another structure. The Plaintiff (our client) is standing on the nearby structure and the electricity from the service drop “jumps,” electrocuting him. He miraculously survives, but has a severe permanent injury. Power company is liable for his damages.
Negligent Security cases are cases where a business owner knows that their location is prone to criminal activity, but fails to take adequate security measures to protect business invitees (such as customers) or to warn them of the potential hazard.
Here are some examples of negligent security cases we have handled in the past:
- Plaintiff delivers gas to gas station. Gas Station owner asks for gas to be delivered between 2:00a.m. and 4:00a.m. The gas station has a history of being robbed on multiple prior occasions. In fact, they use to use their own trucks to deliver the gas, but the drivers were robbed too frequently. Gas station hires another company to make deliveries, but doesn’t tell them about the history of armed robbery, doesn’t take measures to provide security and doesn’t allow the gas to be delivered during the day. The Plaintiff (our client) is shot in the head during a robbery while he delivers gas to the gas station. He miraculously survives. Gas Station is liable for his damages.
- Fast Food chain has a location in a strip mall. Strip mall has a history of criminal activity and fast food restaurant has been robbed multiple times in the preceding two years. Employee of fast food restaurant is shot and killed during an armed robbery. Her estate (our client) brings a claim for wrongful death against the strip mall owner and the fast food restaurant for failing to take adequate security measures and failure to warn her of the risk of criminal activity.
Florida Law places some limitations on cases such as these; nevertheless, business owners still have a duty to protect their business invitees from the reasonably foreseeable criminal acts of third parties.
F.S. 768.0705. Limitation on premises liability
The owner or operator of a convenience business that substantially implements the applicable security measures listed in ss. 812.173 and 812.174 shall gain a presumption against liability in connection with criminal acts that occur on the premises and that are committed by third parties who are not employees or agents of the owner or operator of the convenience business.