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Duty of Care Owed to Trespassers in Florida

apartment1In some cases, when an individual is attacked on someone else’s property, that individual may have a claim for negligent security. Negligent security claims can be complex and highly fact-intensive, which is why it is imperative to consult an experienced Miami injury lawyer who can assess the merits of your case. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we have years of experience in virtually all aspects of personal injury law.

A claim of negligent security may arise when the property owner fails to provoke sufficient security. This may include insufficient lighting, security precautions and other measures.

In Nicholson v. Stoneybrook Apartments, the court dealt with the following issue: what duty does a property owner owe to a person whom it has told not to return to the property. The facts of the case are as follows: The plaintiff was at a party at an apartment complex when she was shot in the leg. The incident took place in a common space of the complex.

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the apartment complex alleging it had not maintained the property in a reasonably safe condition and failed to provide sufficient security.

The defense claimed it owed a limited duty to the plaintiff as she was a trespasser on the property at the time of the injury. The plaintiff argued that her lawsuit was rooted in ordinary negligence and not premises liability; thus, her status on the property was irrelevant.

The court held that plaintiff’s status on the land was, in fact, relevant to the duty owed to her by the apartment complex. According to the court, the main question for the jury to address was whether the plaintiff was a trespasser or an invitee at the time of the incident.

The defense argued that the plaintiff should be deemed an undiscovered trespasser. The apartment complex’s former manager testified that the plaintiff had been told numerous times not to enter the apartment complex. A trespasser is defined as a person who enters the property of another without the landowner’s permission. A trespasser is owed the lowest duty of care, and the property owner will not typically be liable for any harm to undiscovered trespassers, with the exception of intentional misconduct. The duty owed to known trespassers is slightly elevated. A property owner may be legally responsible to a discovered trespasser for injuries stemming from gross negligence, intentional misconduct or failure to warn the individual of a hazardous condition of which the owner has knowledge but is not apparent to the trespasser.

The jury ruled in favor of the apartment complex. The plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Court affirmed the lower court’s decision. The court made a distinction between ordinary negligence and premises liability cases. In ordinary negligence cases, the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty to exercise reasonable care irrespective of the relationship between the two parties. However, in premises liability cases, the defendant’s duty to the plaintiff depends on the plaintiff’s status to the land. The court ruled that the plaintiff was a known trespasser because she was explicitly told to stay off the property but she entered anyway. Further, her case was a premises liability case because she claimed negligence security as a direct cause of her injuries.

If you or someone close to you has been harmed due to negligent security, an experienced Miami injury lawyer can help. To learn all your legal options, do not hesitate to reach out to us. You can contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation. We proudly represent clients throughout Florida.

More Blog Posts:
Negligent Supervision of Children in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, March 19, 2015

Documents Prepared in Anticipation of Litigation Not Discoverable in Florida Premises Liability Case, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, March 9, 2015

Chain Reaction Accidents in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, March 9, 2015