Under Florida law, property owners have a duty to take reasonable steps to minimize the risk of an accident that might injure a visitor. If they breach this duty, and a visitor is injured as a result, the injured party may hold the property owner liable for their damages through a lawsuit on the basis of premises liability.
However, there are a lot of variables in these cases. The identity of the visitor is one: Was the visitor a customer or a social guest, or were they a trespasser? Another factor is the predictability of the accident: Was this something that any reasonable property owner might have anticipated, or was it a bizarre accident no one might have predicted?
Still another factor is the identity of the owner. Most premises liability cases involve private owners, but there are some cases in which an accident occurred on government property. This latter type of accident can lead to different legal procedures.
In this blog post, we will explore how premises liability lawsuits work for people who were injured on government property.
Florida premises liability law
A fairly typical premises liability lawsuit involves a customer who slips on a spill at a grocery store or other retailer, falls and is injured. Under Florida law, the injured person must prove that the store owner actually knew or should have known about the spill. If they can prove this, they prove that the owner was negligent in failing to clean up the spill before a customer was injured.
For example, imagine a case in which a customer at a grocery store slips and falls on a banana peel. If the banana peel was still yellow, it had most likely been on the floor for only a short time, but if it was brown at the time of the accident, this suggests that it had been on the floor for more than a few minutes. This suggests that the owner was negligent.
These same principles apply when the property owner was a government agency, but the lawsuit procedure is different.
Traditionally, the concept of sovereign immunity made it nearly impossible to sue a government agency for negligence. However, Florida waives its sovereign immunity from personal injury lawsuits under certain conditions.
First, the plaintiff must file a notice that they intend to file a claim against the government agency. They must file this notice within three years of the accident. The government then has a 180-day period in which to investigate.
If the lawsuit proceeds, the plaintiff can recover no more than $200,000 in damages.
It’s also important to note that the above applies to Florida-owned property. The rules for federal property are different.
Because the technical procedure is so important to the outcome of these cases, it’s wise for those who have been injured on government property to seek out professional advice.