Holding Florida Property Owners Liable Following an On-Site Injury

August 18, 2020

When a person is injured on another’s property, it can often be very painful and life-altering. In many of these cases, the property owner knew about the dangerous condition and did nothing to correct it or warn visitors of the hazard. Despite this, injury victims will often assume the accident is their fault and take no further action. However, Florida law allows those injured in these situations to hold the property owner liable by filing a premises liability lawsuit.

In a recent case, a Florida state appellate court was tasked with determining whether a property owner was negligent after the plaintiff was injured on the owner’s elevator. Evidently, the plaintiff injured his back and neck as he left his doctor’s office, stepping into the elevator, and not noticing the floor of the elevator was eighteen to twenty-four inches below the landing. The plaintiff brought a premises liability lawsuit, alleging the property owner was liable for his injuries. Ultimately, the court concluded that the record was insufficient to warrant a dismissal in the case, reversing the decision of the trial judge. Thus, the plaintiff’s case will be able to be heard by a jury.

In Florida, a property owner has a duty to maintain their property, like an elevator, in a safe condition. However, the duty to keep property safe is twofold because an owner must use reasonable care: (1) to learn of the existence of any dangerous conditions on the premises; (2) to protect people from dangerous conditions they have knowledge of. This means that if a property owner fails to take reasonable steps to learn of a dangerous condition, they could still be found negligent. Additionally, in most cases, a property owner’s duty to maintain their property in a safe condition cannot be delegated to others.

In this case, the court stated that the property owner knew in the months leading up to the plaintiff’s accident that the elevator was having issues. However, rather than contacting someone with elevator-repair experience to fix the problem, the property owner would ride the elevator to determine if the elevator was malfunctioning. If the elevator did not malfunction while he was in it, the owner would take down the “Out of Order” sign and do nothing else. According to the court’s opinion, a jury could reasonably infer that the owner negligently failed to examine the elevator to determine if there was a problem and subsequently fix it.

The court also determined that a jury should have been the ones to determine if the owner was liable because he did not warn the plaintiff about the malfunctioning elevator. Because another doctor in the office had been telling the building owner about the elevator’s problem for weeks before the plaintiff’s visit, the court determined that the owner knew the elevator was experiencing an intermittent problem and did nothing to warn people about it. Therefore, the court ultimately concluded that the case should not have been dismissed and will now be heard by a jury.

This case illustrates one way to hold a property owner liable when someone is injured on their property, especially when they should have been warned of the dangerous condition or it was preventable. Because these lawsuits can often be complex, it is important to consult an experienced premises liability attorney for assistance.

Do You Need a Premises Liability Attorney?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured, whether in an elevator or elsewhere, contact the Florida premises liability attorneys at The Grife Law Firm. With years of experience handling all types of premises liability cases, we can help you pursue a claim for monetary compensation. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation, contact us today at 855-998-0770.