Often our blog entries that start out with a weekend party end with a reminder about the dangers of drinking and driving. However, our work as your Panama City injury law firm includes a wide spectrum of legal issues in addition to those stemming from automobile accidents. This includes claims stemming from dangerous property conditions, including those that fall into the realm of premises liability claims. As a story out of the state capitol reminds us, property dangers can turn a party into a frightening scene.
Tallahassee Floor Collapse Leaves 55 Partygoers Injured
According to WJGH, officials estimate that around one hundred people attended a gathering at a Tallahassee apartment that lasted into the early morning hours on Sunday. The party took an abrupt turn when the floor of the second story apartment collapsed. Attendees and debris fell from the four bedroom home into the building's clubroom. The incident occurred at the Seminole Grand apartment complex, a group of nearly forty buildings on forty-four acres constructed in 1995. Officials report that fifty-five people suffered injuries, with most involving broken bones and sprains. Initial estimates place the property damage at $250,000. The complex is close to both Florida A&M and Florida State University. Some reports suggest the fire code only allowed eleven people in the residence at a time.
Florida Premises Liability Law
As a general matter, a premises liability claim arises from the duty of a landowner or other party to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition or to provide warning to others who may not know of a potential property danger. A key element of proof in these cases is the defendant's right to maintain control over the property. Ownership alone does not show control. For example, if the owner leases the property out and has no right under the agreement to enter or control the property, the owner will not be liable in a premises liability case. Often, both an owner and tenant have some degree of control. The liable party must also have active or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition.
The duty to maintain a safe property also depends on the status of the injured party. In order from the highest liability to the lowest, visitors are divided into three main groups:
- Invitee - An invitee is someone who is invited onto the property for a business person, such as a shopper at a store. The owner of other controlling party must regularly inspect the site for possible danger to an invitee and must maintain it in a safe condition or warn the invitee of the danger.
- Licensee - A licensee is a person who visits the property for a purpose that is beneficial to the licensee. Licensees include social guests.
- Trespasser - Trespassers are those who enter the premises without permission. Per a 1999 statute, the landowner owes no duty to an undiscovered trespasser (i.e. one whose presence was not detected twenty-four hours prior to the injury) but does owe limited duties to a discovered trespasser. Exceptions are made for children who are not expected to be as able to judge danger, holding those with control responsible for failing to anticipate and correct hazards that may appear inviting to a child and lead to injury.
Protecting Florida Residents and Visitors
We have experience representing injured people in Panama City premises liability lawsuits. We also understand other legal principles that may come into play in these cases, such as Florida construction defect law. Please call for a free consultation.