The Scope of a Landowner’s Duty Under Florida Premises Liability Law

Florida law defines premises liability as a land or property owner’s liability for conditions or activities on their premises. The law imputes liability for injuries that a visitor suffers while on the landowners’ property. Liability is based upon the relationship between the visitor and the landowner. Generally, courts classify a visitor as either a trespasser, licensee, or invitee. Trespassers are those that are on the land without the knowledge or permission of the landowner. Whereas, licensees enter for the mutual convenience of both the visitor and the property owner, such as family and friends. Although duty and liability vary based upon the status, the law surrounding invitees have the most nuances. Invitees are usually either public invitees or business visitors. Public invitees enter the land as a member of the public for which the land is designed. Public invitees are those that enter places such as public parks, airports, or museums. In comparison, a business visitor enters a property or land for direct or indirect business dealings with the landowner, such as those that enter a shopping center, or a guest at an amusement park or hotel.

Independent contractors are a unique class of visitors that do not fall precisely within any of the classifications. Typically, landowners are not responsible for injuries that an independent contractor or their employees experience while engaging in their work. This rule applies even if the work is inherently dangerous, as long as the work is incidental to their job duties or disclosed. However, exceptions exist when the landowner actively participates or exercises direct control over the independent contractor’s work, or the owner creates a dangerous condition.

For instance, a Florida appellate court recently issued an opinion stemming from a premises liability lawsuit against a homeowner. In that case, the property owner hired the plaintiff to perform tree trimming services on his land. While trimming the trees, the plaintiff was electrocuted by an electric line. The victim admitted that he was aware of the electric line but did not know how dangerous it was. In coming to their decision, the court first explained that independent contractors are business invitees and, therefore, property owners are not generally liable for their work-related injuries. Moreover, in addressing an owner’s duty, the court described the open and obvious doctrine. Under this doctrine, the law entitles the owner to assume that the invitee will perceive any obvious dangers. In this case, regardless of the degree of dangerousness, the plaintiff attributed to the power line, it is clear that most electric lines are dangerous. Therefore, the electric line was not a latent danger, and the homeowner is not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Florida Accident?

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a Florida premises liability accident, contact the attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada, P.A. The Florida personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at our law firm have an extensive history of successfully representing injury clients. Through our representation, injury victims have recovered substantial amounts of compensation for their injuries. Contact our office at 877-448-8585, to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.

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