Premises Liability Slip and Fall and Trip and Fall Cases 

3D Character and Question Mark

 

This article will touch on different issues relevant to slip and fall cases. I will also discuss the the different standards and duties owed to specific people.  I invite you to review this article and follow up with me if you have any questions, or you if you think you have a slip and fall case please call : 727-386-9677 or contact me here

Premises Liability is one of those fields under law, whose specifics hasn’t been stated clearly or varies from Jurisdiction to Jurisdiction. In simple terms premises liability law is holding the owner or possessor of a premises legally responsible for certain type of injuries and accidents suffered by Individual(s) in the premises, the most common type of cases in premises liability include –  Defective Condition, Slip and Fall , Trips and fall, Inadequate Security, Inadequate Maintenance etc.

In Florida, premises liability is not strict liability: “An owner of real property is not an insurer of the safety of persons on such property, nor is he subject to strict liability or liable per se for injuries resulting from dangerous conditions on owned property.” {Fla. Dep’t of Nat. Res. v. Garcia, 753 So. 2d 72, 79 (Fla. 2000) (quoting Bovis v. 7-Eleven, Inc., 505 So. 2d 661, 662-63 (Fla. 5th D.C.A. 1987))}

The law in Florida, regarding premises liability is a little ambiguous regarding cases of ‘third-party’ crimes.  Third party crimes are those crimes which are committed by a stranger or someone who has no relations with the premises owner whatsoever, though in some cases the premises owner can be held accountable and responsible for third party crimes done on their premises provided that those crimes were ‘Foreseeable’.

The ambiguity regarding premises liability arise due to the difference of opinions among Florida’s appellate courts regarding which third- party crimes can be considered ‘Foreseeable’ and which can’t and the ambiguity has percolated down to the trial courts. Each, District Court of Appeal has been following a different standard when it comes to what can be considered foreseeable and the honorable judges at trial courts  are left to choose one of those standards which can be either lenient towards the plaintiffs or towards the defendants.

Let’s first go through requirements which need to be satisfied for a Premises liability case.

 

Plaintiff’s Status on Slip and FallsSlip and fall injury

In any case of Premises liability the first priority is ascertaining the plaintiff’s status on the premises, which can be one among the following – Invitee (Public Invitee / Business Invitee), Invited Licensee, Uninvited Licensee, and Trespasser. The status can be ascertained by the following descriptions –

Public Invitee – is a person who is invited to enter or remain on land as a member of the public for a purpose for which the land is held open to the public. {Id. at 148 (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts §332(2) (1977))}

Business Invitee – is a person who is invited to enter or remain on land for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings with the possessor of the land. {Id. at 148 (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts §332(2) (1977))}

Licensee by Invitation – Social Guest {See Wood v. Camp, 284 So. 2d 691, 694-95 (Fla. 1973)}

Uninvited Licensee – persons who choose to come upon the premises solely for their own convenience without invitation either expressed or reasonably implied under the circumstances. {Iber v. R.P.A. Int’l Corp., 585 So. 2d 367, 368-69 (Fla. 3d D.C.A. 1991)}

Trespasser- Is a personwho enters the premises of another without license, invitation, or other right, and intrudes for some definite purpose of his own, or at his own convenience, or merely as an idler with no apparent purpose, other than perhaps to satisfy his curiosity.” {Post, 261 So. 2d at 147}

The status of the plaintiff on the premises becomes even more so important in cases which involve crimes and harm done by third-party, as plaintiffs with only certain status on the premises are eligible for making a claim against the premises owner for crimes done by third-party. The duties of premises owner differ according to the plaintiff’s status on the premises

Now, let’s have a look at the duties of a premises owner regarding the visitor’s status in the premises, If premises owner fail in adhering to their duty, a case for premises liability is considered valid

 

Duties of Premises owner

Public Invitee / Business Invitee / Licensee by Invitation

To correct or warn of dangers that the owner knows or should know of by the use of reasonable care, and which the visitor cannot or should not know of by the use of reasonable care.

To maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, including to guard against foreseeable third-party crimes.

 

Uninvited Licensee/ Trespassers –

To refrain from willfully or wanton injury (ex. – To remove any concealed traps of which the owner has actual knowledge)

No duty to guard against third-party crimes.

 

It can be gauged from the above duties that why it’s so important for plaintiff(s) of premises liability case(s) to prove themselves as ‘invitee(s)’.

Once the hurdle of ascertaining the status of the plaintiff on the premises has been cleared, the next hurdle of crimes being ‘foreseeable’ is where divergence of opinion among appellate courts of Florida exists.

 

The Ambiguity (related to third-party crimes)

For holding the premises owner responsible in case of a third-party crime, a plaintiff has to prove that the third-party crime which took place in the premises could have been foreseen by the owner(s).

The ambiguity arises in the scope of an additional test that the Florida Supreme Court asserted in 1983 regarding whether in a particular case prior crimes make the present crime foreseeable.

All the appellate courts in Florida with the exception of the Third District Court of Appeals have taken what can be termed as a ‘reasonably fair’ stand regarding the above test. The Third District Court of Appeal has taken a ‘strict’ stand and sub-divided the above test into 3 different test criteria which a plaintiff has to meet –

  1. Similarity of the Prior crimes
  2. Geographical Proximity of the prior crimes.
  3. Temporal Proximity of the prior crimes.

Note – Landlord-tenant Premises liability cases can be exceptions in the tests when compared to other cases of Premises Liability.

According to Third District Court of Appeals –Personal injury law

Similarity of the Prior Crimes

A plaintiff can only refer to prior crimes which were similar to the crimes committed in his / her case.

Geographical Proximity of the prior Crimes

Any prior similar crimes must have occurred on the landowner’s premises in order to be considered probative.

Off-premises crimes might contribute to a foreseeability analysis, so long as they did not occur “substantial distances away.”

Temporal Proximity of the Prior Crimes

In cases whereno prior similar crimes occurred on the premises during at least the two previous yearsa plaintiff’s reference to earlier crimes might not hold.

If you think you have a trip and fall or slip and fall case please call Mark Perenich at 727-386-9677  your Clearwater Personal injury lawyer