How Your House Guests Could Sue You

Florida homeowners have a responsibility toward the general safety of any person who enters their property. Failure in this duty could leave a property owner vulnerable to a premises liability lawsuit if a person is seriously injured on their property. Slip and fall injuries are among the most common causes of premises liability claims.

The property must be maintained so that it is reasonably safe for a visitor. A homeowner is required to not only inspect for potential hazards but also to repair any known dangers around their property, whether it is cluttered walkways, broken stairs or nonfunctioning lights. Such unsafe conditions have the potential to cause injury to anyone visiting their home. If a homeowner is unable to have the repair performed immediately for some reason, they must post warning signs so that visitors are aware of the dangerous condition.

Under Florida law, homeowners and other property owners are assigned different degrees of liability according to the injured person’s status on the property. Visitors are classified as invitees, licensees or trespassers. Property owners must provide the highest level of protection to individuals who are invited to the home for either business or personal reasons. Trespassers are extended the least amount of duty.

The following are the main categories of visitors:

Business Invitees: The majority of premises liability cases fall under this category. A business invitee is one who visits a home for commercial purposes. Repairmen, garage sale customers and utility workers constitute some common types of business invitees. For example, an electrician entering a home for repair work can get injured due to a loose doorstep.

Licensees: Friends and family who visit a property for social purposes are considered licensees. The category covers both the invited and uninvited guests of homeowners. An invited licensee is given the same degree of protection as invitees. Uninvited licensees are those who choose to visit the property according to their own convenience without an invitation. An example of an uninvited licensee is a door-to-door salesman.

Trespassers: The lowest duty of care is owed to trespassers. Trespassers are individuals who intrude on a homeowner’s property without permission or an invitation. In this category, children are granted special exceptions under the attractive nuisance doctrine. Homeowners are required to secure potentially hazardous objects or conditions that can entice curious children who are unaware of right and wrong. For example, a property owner could be liable for damages if a child suffers an injury after falling into an unfenced swimming pool on their property, or gets hurt on an unattended trampoline.

Having a basic understanding of premises liability laws can help homeowners ensure they are able to both prevent injuries and protect themselves from premises liability lawsuits in case of an accident on their property.