Although many people are not aware, Florida landowners have different duties to those entering their property, depending on the individual present. Although there is a current movement within the law to dispose of these distinctions, about half of U.S. states (including Florida) still maintain different duties that landowners owe to different types of people entering their land. The three categories of entrants are trespassers, licensees, and invitees. As a Florida landowner (or even just as a guest on another’s land), it is extremely important to know the duties that landowners owe to those on their property.
First, trespassers are all entrants to a piece of property until the possessor gives them permission to enter (either explicitly or implicitly). Under Florida law, trespassers are owed no duty of care from the landowner, which means that the only requirement for owners is to refrain from intentionally harming the trespasser. There is one important exception, though. If a Florida landowner has reason to know that trespassers are currently on their land, or that individuals regularly frequent their land (ex: children cutting across the property), they must warn these trespassers of any dangerous conditions that are not open or obvious to the trespasser. Therefore, if the owner knows of the trespassers, they effectively become invitees and are owed the same duties.
Second, licensees are those persons who enter a property with the permission of the landowner, either explicit or implied. These individuals enter the premises for their own pleasure or benefit, and include both social guests and people that enter the property to sell wares (ex: Girl Scouts selling cookies). The duty landowners have to licensees is a duty not to intentionally harm them, as well as to either fix known dangers or sufficiently warn of their existence. Licensees, in general, enter a property and assume the risk of injury from any risks that they should be aware of.
Third, invitees are those persons who have been invited to the premises to provide a material benefit to the landowner, often for business transactions or if the individuals are employees. Land open to the public also turns all entrants into invitees. The duty a landowner owes to these individuals is a duty of reasonable care to protect them against both known dangers and those that could be revealed by a close inspection of the premises. Invitees have been described as having reason to believe that “the premises have been made safe to receive them.”
Those individuals that are injured on the land of another should not hesitate to contact a premises liability attorney to see what category you fall into, and determine whether you have not been extended the duty required by the landowner. Accidents like slip and falls may entitle victims to compensation if the accident was a result of the landowner’s negligence.