Under premises liability law, property owners have a duty to maintain the safety of their property. This duty applies not only to private property owners, including businesses, who invite guests onto their property, but also to landlords who make their property available long-term to tenants. Property law requires landlords to repair known defects and provide safe living conditions for their tenants. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that this duty extends to security conditions.
Owners Declared Negligent in Murder Case
In a tragic case, a 20-year-old college student and her 17-year-old brother, who had just finished high school, were murdered in their apartment. The apartment was one of several units in a gated community, Gatehouse on the Green, and the owners of the property had failed to keep the security gate in proper working condition. Doing too little too late, the owners began repairs on the gate the day after they learned about the killings.
The owners were found liable for negligence, and were initially ordered to pay $4.5 million to the family of the victims for their wrongful death. The appeals court reduced this amount to $1.8 million, finding that the apartment complex owners were only 40% responsible for the siblings’ death, thus lowering the amount awarded to reflect this lower level of culpability. However, in Florida’s highest court, the judges were convinced that the owners of the complex failed to meet their obligation to secure the property by neglecting to repair the security gate for months, and ordered that the full amount be awarded to the mourning family.
Florida tort law uses a contributory fault system, which means that if a defendant is only partially responsible for an injury suffered by a plaintiff, the defendant will only be ordered to pay for damages proportional to their role in the injury. For example, if a plaintiff slips and falls while in a defendant’s store, sustaining $1,000 worth of damages, and a jury determines that the defendant was 80% at fault, the plaintiff will only be able to recover $800 in a lawsuit. Some other states have harsher laws on the books, which prevent a plaintiff from recovering any monetary damages if they contributed in any way, however small, to their own injury.
Our Premises Liability Attorneys Will Fight for You
Providing reasonable security is part of property owners’ duty to provide safe premises. Some types of properties, such as shopping centers, restaurants, and banks, are required by law to have adequate, functional security equipment installed on their premises. Surveillance cameras, alarms, gates, and competent security guards are just a few ways that property owners can and should meet their obligation to ensure a safe place for their invited guests. Inadequate security precautions regularly endanger visitors (and tenants) and can result in serious injuries, including assault, battery, kidnapping or abduction, rape, murder, and other violent crimes.
At Barrett, Fasig & Brooks, our team of experienced Tallahassee premises liability lawyers are ready to pursue claims against negligent property owners to ensure that you are properly compensated for any suffering that you have been caused by their lack of care. To discuss your premises liability or other personal injury case, call or text Barrett, Fasig & Brooks at 850-224-3310 or contact us online for your free initial consultation.