Are you responsible if someone uninvited and without warning enters your land, and slips and injures himself or herself on your property? Can the trespasser sue you for his or her injuries? What if you are a store owner, and a customer enters an “employee only” area and injures himself or herself there? The answer can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
Under Florida law, business owners have no obligation to warn trespassers of anything other than known, concealed dangers. Given that the standard is so high, it is very difficult for trespassers to recover damages.
Premises liability cases generally hinge on what someone’s status is on another’s property. If you are somewhere where you are not allowed to be, you are a trespasser. This applies to “employee only” zones in places where you have permission to be. In other words, even if you have permission to be in a particular store, that doesn’t mean you have permission to be in every room or area in that store. Thus, your status can change from an invited customer to a trespasser merely by walking from one area (the checkout register) to another that is designated only for employees (the stockroom).
In Denniser v. Columbia Hospital Corporation of South Broward, Ms. Denniser was visiting her mother in the hospital when she entered a staff kitchen to get some tea. The kitchen door was shut but was not locked. A sign on the wall right outside of the kitchen stated “PANTRY” and “STAFF ONLY.” While she was inside the kitchen, Ms. Denniser slipped and fell on a wet floor and ultimately sustained injuries.
Ms. Denniser sued the hospital for negligence, claiming that the hospital had breached its duty to her as an “invitee” by failing to warn her of the dangerous and hidden condition of the wet floor. The hospital responded by saying that Ms. Denniser had lost her “invitee” status and become a trespasser when she entered the designated “staff only” area. The trial court agreed and granted the hospital’s summary judgment motion.
The Florida appellate court agreed with the lower court that Ms. Denniser’s status had changed from invitee to trespasser as she entered the “staff only” kitchen. However, the appellate court explained that the trial court erred in granting the hospital’s summary judgment motion because the evidence did not indicate that the hospital was unaware of Ms. Denniser’s presence in the kitchen prior to her fall. The lesson from this case is that business owners have a duty to warn trespassers once they are aware of their presence on the property.
In a premises liability case, it is crucial to seek an experienced attorney to represent you. Having solid legal representation on your side can make all the difference in your case. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our skilled Miami premises liability attorneys will provide you with a free consultation and help you assess the merits of your case. Dealing with an injury is never easy, and this is why you can expect the utmost compassion and respect from our entire staff. We handle cases in Miami and throughout South Florida. Contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.
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