When could an owner be liable for injuries to a trespasser?

Premises liability refers to the expectation that a property owner will keep safe any person who is on their property and will be liable for damages if that person is injured or killed while on the property regardless of whether the owner was directly at fault. Businesses are especially sensitive to premises liability claims when it comes to protecting customers, but homeowners can also face a premises liability lawsuit if a visitor is injured on their property.

An owner is almost always liable to a person on the property who is considered an invitee. An invitee is anyone who was invited or who reasonably believed they had permission to be on the property. Premises liability becomes more complicated when the person is a trespasser. An owner is never liable to a trespasser who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or to any trespasser who is committing or planning to commit a felony on the property. In other situations, the owner may be liable.

There are two types of trespassers under the law. The first is a discovered trespasser. This is defined as a trespasser the owner knows about within 24 hours before the accident. The owner is expected to avoid gross misconduct that would injure the trespasser and to warn the trespasser of any known dangers or hazards. The other type of trespasser is one that is unknown to the owner. The owner only has the responsibility to avoid gross misconduct or creating a situation that would be intentionally hazardous to the trespasser and not providing due warning of the hazards.

There are many possible scenarios when an owner could be liable for injuries to a trespasser. For example, if the owner placed traps on their property and did not put up a sign warning of the traps and a wandering person was injured in the trap, the owner might be liable because the traps could be considered an act of misconduct intending to cause injury.

Source: Online Sunshine, “The 2014 Florida Statutes: 768.075 Immunity from liability for injury to trespassers on real property,” the Florida Legislature, Sept. 22, 2014

SourceOnline Sunshine, “ The 2014 Florida Statutes“, September 19, 2014