Premises Liability in Florida: To What Extent Are Property Owners Responsible for the Safety of Guests on Their Property?
It appears that Disney World is about to be a defendant in another premises liability lawsuit. Lisa Dixon of Celebration, Florida was walking on the dock that leads from the Polynesian Village Resort to the ferry boat that takes guests to the Magic Kingdom theme park when a bird flew toward her and collided with her head. She suffered brain injuries similar to what a person would suffer if hit in the head with a baseball, since the bird weighed about as much as a baseball and was traveling at about the same speed. It sounds like a freak accident, but according to premises liability laws, the fact that the accident happened at all amounts to negligence on Disney World’s part. The plaintiff alleges that Disney World had a duty to warn guests about birds nesting near the dock so that the guests could take precautions such as avoiding the dock and the ferry boat during the nesting season. If you have been injured at a place of business, a premises liability lawyer can help you make your case that the owner of the property should have done more to prevent the accident.
Are You Legally Responsible for Accidents That Happen on Your Property?
It depends. How much responsibility you have for making your property accident-proof (your “duty of care” in legal terms) depends on the intended use of the property and the relationship of the injured person to the property.
- Places of business are at the highest risk of being sued for premises liability. They are entirely responsible for making sure that customers of the business do not get injured there, which is why safety inspections are required for most places of business. Judges will, however, rule in favor of the business owner in a premises liability lawsuit if the business owner’s attorney successfully argues that the plaintiff was endangering himself through reckless behavior and not using the premises for their intended purposes. If the plaintiff got injured falling off the roof of a restaurant that does not have rooftop seating, the defendant can argue that the plaintiff had no business climbing on the roof.
- Homeowners have a somewhat lower duty of care, although they must warn guests of known dangers related to the premises.
- Trespassers have an uphill battle in winning premises liability lawsuits. They can still win if they can persuade the court that the property owner intentionally harmed them.
The Alligator Test
Is it premises liability if someone who comes to your property gets bitten by an alligator? Again, it depends.
- Business – A golfer at a golf course gets bitten by an alligator in a pond. The owner of the golf course should not have alligators on the golf course. If an alligator finds its way onto the golf course from a nearby river, the golf course staff has a duty to notify animal control and to close the golf course until the gator is removed.
- Residential – A guest at a garden party gets bitten by an alligator in a canal behind the host’s house. The host should post a sign that says “beware of alligators” or “no wading or swimming.”
- Trespassing – A trespasser on a golf course at night gets bitten by an alligator in a pond. Unless the golf course staff intentionally threw the trespasser into the pond knowing the gator was there, the property owner is probably not liable.
Let Us Help You Today
If you have been injured in an accident on someone else’s property, contact skilled Palm Beach County premises liability attorney Scott Smith for a consultation to see if you have grounds for a lawsuit. We are eager to assist you throughout each step of your case.