Accidents that take place at commercial buildings (stores, banks, offices), residences (private homes or rentals), or on public property (parks, streets, or public transportation) due to a defective or dangerous condition are called “premises liability” accidents. In Florida, property owners are liable for maintaining both the inside and outside of their property. For example, a store owner has a duty to maintain not only the inside of the store, but also the sidewalks, entryways and parking lot outside the store.
The most common conditions that give rise to liability claims brought against business owners include broken or uneven sidewalks, inadequate lighting, collapsed ceiling, obstruction on stairways, in aisles or sidewalks, spilled liquid, slippery surface, broken or missing handrails on stairways, uneven steps or defectively built stairways, malfunctioning doors, dangerously or negligently displayed merchandise, etc. Dogs also can be considered a dangerous condition on a person’s property and a dog bite or attack can result in a premises liability suit against the animal’s guardian.
Premise liability claims, just like other personal injury claims, are typically brought under a theory of negligence. To prevail in a premises liability claim, an injured person must prove that the property owner or occupier failed to conform his conduct to a standard of conduct imposed by law. For example, a business owner has a legal duty to keep his property in a safe condition and warn business invitees (customers, guests, etc.) of any dangers the owner knows or should know about (this includes the duty to regularly inspect the property). On the other hand, a residential property owner or occupier has a legal duty to repair any unsafe conditions or warn his social guests about dangers that exist. However, the residential property owner owes no duty to inspect.