Many injury claims are caused by unsafe conditions on both commercial and private property. When someone is injured by a slip and fall on a property, how do Florida courts determine if the owner/occupant of a property is liable? The answer depends on what the injured party was doing on the property. This status dictates the duty of care owed by the owner/occupant. An invitee is a person who is on the owner’s property because they have been led to believe the property is open for their use. An example of an invitee is a visitor to a public place such as a park or a business customer. Likewise a social guest is an invitee. A property owner owes an invitee a duty of care to warn of dangers of which the owner is aware or should be aware and a duty to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition. The owner is also responsible, of course, for his intentional actions.

Licensees are persons who enter upon the property of another for their own convenience, benefit or pleasure. This includes uninvited licensees whose presence is tolerated or permitted by the owner of the property. A licensee, for example, might be a person who entered a store to get change for a dollar. The duty of care owed by a property owner to a licensee is to not willfully injure him and to not be wantonly negligent. The owner also has a duty to warn the licensee of any dangers known to the owner which are not readily noticable.

A trespasser is a person who enters the property of another without an invitation or license and who does so for his own self-interest. A property owner owes no duty to a trespasser other than to not intentionally harm him and to warn him of dangerous conditions which are not open and obvious.

Several years ago, I had a client in Destin who visited a convenience store on Highway 98 and Beach Drive. While fueling her car, her feet became tangled in the gas hose and she fell, breaking her ankle. I discovered that the hoses were longer than allowed by regulations and were thus laying on the ground around the pump. Because she was a business invitee, the convenience store breached its duty of care by creating a dangerous condition. The convenience store settled out of court before trial.

Michael Weimorts,

Attorney At Law

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