Florida’s slip and fall law places different burdens on property owners to protect different types of entrants onto their property. In other words, property owners have to do more to protect some people than others. This might sound strange but it’s true.
Adult Trespassers Are Only Owed Limited Protections Under Florida’s Slip & Fall Law
You will probably not be surprised to learn that property owners owe the least amount of protection to those who trespass on their property, although they still owe some limited duties. (The law is a little more protective of trespassing children, however.) A trespasser is someone who enters someone else’s property another without any right to do so. If you are an adult and were trespassing when you fell, then, assuming the property owner knew you were on his property within 24 hours of you arrival, the owner would only be liable if he either (1) intentionally harmed you (2) was “grossly” negligent in causing your harm (this essentially means he did something really, really unreasonable, which caused your injury); or (3) failed to warn you about dangerous conditions that were known to him but not easy for you to discover (but he would have had no obligation to warn you if you knew about the dangerous condition.) If he did not know about your presence within 24 hours of your arrival, then he would only be responsible if he engaged in intentional misconduct that caused your injury. All of those rules go out the window if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol AND you were trespassing. Basically there is no protection whatsoever if you were sufficiently intoxicated or under the influence of ANY controlled substances.
Children Who Trespass Enjoy More Protections Under Florida’s Slip & Fall Law
For children who were trespassing, Florida’s slip and fall law is somewhat more protective. There is a special doctrine known as the “attractive nuisance doctrine,” which essentially makes a property owner liable for injuries suffered by trespassing children “of tender years” if they were allured or enticed onto a particular piece of property by a condition, instrument, machine or other objects that might attract the attention of children. For example, a landowner will be held liable for injuries caused to young children by swimming pools without guards, large open pit areas, abandoned vehicles, old appliances or furniture, and that sort of thing. So this rule requires property owners to exercise reasonable care to safeguard curious children from dangerous conditions on their property.
This Is Where It Gets Confusing: Were You Kinda Sorta Invited Onto The Property?
If you were injured on a business property, and were on the property as a member of the public for a purpose for which the business is held open to the public, then the business owner has a duty to keep his premises in reasonably safe condition and to warn you of concealed perils unknown to you. This means if you were just stopping by your local hardware store or pharmacy, even just to browse their merchandise, and you were injured, then the law requires the landowner to keep the place safe (and/or warn you of dangerous conditions that you can’t readily detect). Similarly, if you were a social guests in someone’s home, the law requires the same of the homeowner. They have to keep their premises reasonably safe and warn you of concealed perils unknown to you. (And remember if you were injured at a friend’s house, we would really be suing for their homeowner’s insurance coverage, not their personal assets.)
Call Me To Resolve Any Confusion You Might Have
This discussion really only scratches the surface of all of the law defining various types of entrants onto property, and the rights protecting them. As you can hopefully see, Florida’s slip and fall law can be very confusing, fact-intensive and not clear sometimes even for attorneys (even the courts sometimes acknowledge conflicts in our laws, which can lead a creative and diligent attorney to find arguments that others very well might miss). One little fact in your slip and fall case could change everything. I am a former law professor and big firm attorney turned plaintiffs’ slip and fall attorney. If you call me about your slip and fall injury case, I will get to the bottom of whether there is any way to argue that the property owner should be liable for your injuries. You are welcome to call or text me anytime, day or night.