Can a Trespasser File a Premises Liability Lawsuit in Florida?
Businesses and property owners have a responsibility to provide reasonably safe conditions for customers and invitees. However, property owners only have a limited responsibility to look out for the health and well-being of trespassers. A person hurt while “trespassing” can file a premises liability lawsuit in Florida, but there are many obstacles that must be overcome. Here, our Miami personal injury lawyers explain the most important things you should know about trespasser injuries and premises liability claims in Florida.
Florida Law: Who is a Trespasser?
As a starting point, it is important to define the term trespasser. It is not always clear or obvious whether or not a person was trespassing or had implied permission to be on the premises. In a key 1970s case of Post v. Lunney, the Florida Supreme Court defined a trespasser as a person who “enters the premises of another without license invitation or other right and intrudes.”
Of course, this is a somewhat vague definition that can sometimes be difficult to apply to real world circumstances. In a premises liability lawsuit, one of the first issues that must be resolved is whether the victim was an invited/permitted guest or a trespasser. Their status will determine the duty of care that they were owed by the business or property owner.
Businesses/Property Owners Owe Limited Duties to Trespassers
Once a person is classified as a trespasser, it is difficult for them to bring a premises liability lawsuit to recover compensation for their injuries. The reason for this is that Florida law states that businesses and property owners owe limited legal duties to trespassers. A property owner may not be liable for an injury caused by a safety hazard if the victim did not have permission to be on the property.
A Trespasser May Be Still Be Able to File a Personal Injury Claim
There is a significant distinction between “limited” legal duties and “no” legal duties. In some circumstances, a business or property owner may still be liable for a trespasser’s injury. A trespasser may still be able to bring a premises liability lawsuit if:
- They had a good faith, but mistaken reason to believe that they had a right to be on the property;
- The business/property owner has knowledge of the trespasser’s presence, but failed to take any action to remove them from the premises; and
- The business or property owner intentionally or recklessly created a hazard that caused the trespassers injuries.
Bottom line: These cases should always be investigated. In pursuing a personal injury claim, it is generally best for a victim to challenge their classification as a trespasser. It is far easier to recover compensation if you are not deemed a trespasser. If the trespasser designation cannot be successfully overcome, victims may still have options available.
Contact Our Florida Premises Liability Attorneys for Immediate Help
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Miami personal injury lawyers have extensive experience handling complex premises liability claims. If you or your loved one was injured while allegedly trespassing on someone else’s property, we will protect your rights. Call us now for a free initial consultation. Our premises liability lawyers represent injured victims throughout South Florida, including in Miami, West Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale.