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Invitees have the most rights in premises liability cases

Can a business or property owner predict that a crime could be committed against someone on their premises? As it turns out, the Florida courts sometimes rule that owners are responsible for damages stemming from "foreseeable crimes." Consider the following scenario:

You stop at a convenience store to get a cup of coffee. While you are inside, an intruder robs the cashier and fires a shot that strikes you. The business might be liable for your injuries and medical expenses. You could argue that the store had been robbed previous times in the past and that the owner knew it was situated in a high-crime neighborhood. He or she could have arranged for security to deter the likelihood of criminal activity like that robbery.

Even a win at a civil trial on the liability issue might not settle the matter, however. Appellate courts are known to produce reversals that deny plaintiffs awards for damages. But if the plaintiff was an invitee, it can be more difficult to deny liability than if the plaintiff had been trespassing or merely a licensee.

The appeals court ruled that landowners have "a duty to protect an invitee on his premises from a criminal attack that is reasonably foreseeable." Being able to prove you were an invitee bolsters your case, as the premises must be reasonably safe for invitees.

Licensees do not have the same rights, and trespassers have the least of all. But they do have some, which surprises many property owners. Florida defines trespassers as those entering without being invited or having license or other rights to be there, and intruding for their own purposes, or no purpose at all.

It can be a bit confusing determining which category you fell into at the time you were injured. Filing a claim for damages can help you sort out liability issues.

Source: The Florida Bar Journal, "Premises Liability: A Notable Rift in the Law of Foreseeable Crimes," Wilton H. Strickland, accessed March 04, 2016

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