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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

Florida personal injury lawyers



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    A Deep Dive Into Premises Liability: Apartment Buildings and Residential Complexes

    In Florida, premises liability encompasses claims for personal injuries that occur on someone else’s property. Injuries can happen in businesses, homes, parking lots, boat docks, apartment buildings, residential complexes, hotels, etc.

    Understanding the nuances of premises liability is crucial for those living in apartment buildings, condos, senior communities, and other residential complexes. The responsibilities of property owners and managers, potential hazards in these locations, and the steps to take following an injury can significantly impact your ability to navigate and resolve any claim or case effectively. This article aims to provide a deep dive into the specifics of premises liability as it pertains to these residential settings in Florida.

    Property owners have certain duties to maintain their property in a safe condition, and the scope of these duties depends on the status of the person who was on the property. If these duties are breached, and it results in injuries or damages to people on the property, the property owners may be held liable.

    The first thing to look at is someone’s status: Persons on another’s premises are categorized as either invitees, licensees, or trespassers:

    1. Invitees: These visitors are afforded the greatest protection under Florida premises liability law. Invitees are invited to enter or remain on premises for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings with the possessor of the premises. In the case of an apartment complex, tenants who live on the property fall under the “invitee” category. Property owners have two duties toward invitees: to keep their property in reasonably safe condition and to protect the invitee from dangers of which they are or should be aware; and to warn the invitee of concealed dangers that are or should be known to the owner and which are unknown to the invitee and cannot be discovered by them through the exercise of due care.
    2. (Uninvited) Licensees: These are individuals who come on the property solely for their own convenience without invitation. For example, a door-to-door salesperson would be considered an uninvited licensee. The duty of care owed by a landowner to a licensee is to refrain from willful misconduct or wanton negligence, to warn of known dangers not open to ordinary observation, and to refrain from intentionally exposing the licensee to danger.
    3. Trespassers: These are individuals who enter the premises without license, invitation, or other right. Generally, the only duty of an owner to a trespasser is to avoid willful and wanton injury. However, if the trespasser’s presence is discovered, there is also a duty to warn of known dangerous conditions not readily apparent to ordinary observation.

    Common Premises Injuries

    The most common premises liability cases in Florida at residential premises are slip and fall and dog bite cases.

    Slip and fall (sometimes trip and fall) accidents can occur due to various hazards such as wet floors, uneven surfaces, poor lighting, or other unsafe conditions. 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. Essentially, the claimant must demonstrate that the property owner knew or should have known about the hazardous condition and failed to address it, which resulted in their injury​​.

    Even something as benign as a well-traveled ramp leading to the complex’s front entrance could be hazardous. For example, Leighton Law settled a million-dollar slip and fall case where a man slipped and fell on a tiled walkway leading to a hotel’s entrance. It was a rainy day, but we proved that the walkway’s tile was not sufficiently slip-resistant, was meant to be used indoors only, and that no anti-slip mats nor wet floor signs were in place at the time.

    Dog bites can occur when a dog owner fails to control their pet properly, leading to an injury​​. Dog bites generally fall under Florida Statute § 767.04, which states that the dog’s owner is liable for damages in most cases. For example, if the dog from apartment 4B bit your child, the tenant would most likely be liable rather than the landlord. On the other hand, the property owner could be liable if the injury occurred outside the complex’s fenced dog run because the dog slipped through the poorly maintained fence and bit your child. Or if the management knew that a dog had violent propensities or had bitten someone already and failed to take action.  Similarly, someone doesn’t have to be actually bitten to hold the owner responsible.  If a dog runs chases you and causes you to fall or hit something, the owner is liable for that as well.

    Common hazards in residential complexes and apartment buildings may include fire safety hazards such as improper storage of flammable materials and lack of fire alarms; structural safety hazards like poor construction that affects the building’s structural integrity; electrical safety hazards like faulty wiring that can cause fire or electrocution; and water safety hazards like poor water quality and the risk of flooding.

    Another cause of injuries is the failure to provide reasonable security.  People are robbed, shot and sexually assaulted at residential premises every day.  The question is whether there was reasonable security, including lighting, to help deter the crime.  There are minimum lighting requirements for most properties, as well as accepted industry standards for security to help prevent violent crime.  In these cases, your attorney will need to determine the nature and extent of prior crime and incidents on and near the property to determine what the security needs were at the time of the incident.

    What to Do Next

    If you are injured on the premises of an apartment or residential complex, be sure to seek medical attention, document and report the incident, preserve evidence, and refrain from giving detailed statements to the property owner, their insurance company, or their attorney to protect your rights. Most importantly, contact a personal injury attorney to guide you through the process.

    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite


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