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Premises Liability And Three Degrees Of Responsibility

Premises liability, also known as “slip and fall” laws, covers the responsibility that the owner and manager of a piece of property has to the people who set foot on it. The exact details can change from one state to the next, but in general every state in the Union divides visitors into three categories: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Each group has different rights, and as the property owner you are responsible to each of them in different ways. That’s why it’s important to understand what the law says about each group.


Invitees are people who enter a property for the financial or material gain of the owner along with people who enter property that’s open to the public in general. This can include:

• Shoppers, clients, and patrons of a store or restaurant
• Guests at a park
• Delivery persons who are dropping off packages or mail
• Contract workers like plumbers, electricians, and babysitters
• Hunters, loggers, and others who pay the owner to use the land

Because property owners and managers stand to benefit from invitees coming in, they owe them the highest duty of care. That means regular inspections of the grounds for dangers, and it means invitees should get warnings about the dangers assuming the owner can’t fix them right away. In exchange, the invitee can only go where the manager indicates. If they go beyond these points, they become trespassers.


Despite the name, licensees don’t all get official licenses to be on the property. Instead, this category includes everyone who has permission to be on the property but doesn’t have to be invited. This means that licensees can be:

• Family members
• Friends
• Neighbors
• Unsolicited salespeople
• Missionaries

Licensees can also include both renters and employees at a business, but their relationship is more complicated since employees and renters can be held at least partially liable if something happens to invitees or other licensees, and the responsibilities of each party are usually written down in the lease or employment contract. Either way, property owners and occupiers have less of a duty to protect licensees. They must warn licensees about any hazards they know about, but they don’t have to actively inspect their property or mark hazardous areas for a licensee’s sake.


A trespasser is a person who has no invitation and no permission to be on your property or in a certain area of it. For instance, customers in a store are invitees so long as they stick to the shelved areas, but they become trespassers if they go through an “Employees Only” door without permission. Property owners still have some duty to trespassers, but it takes something like willful negligence like failing to mark a fence with a “beware of dog” sign when there’s an attack dog living inside.

Property owners also have to offer some protection to children since they often wander into places they shouldn’t be. That can mean adding barriers kids have a tough time crossing or setting guards who can steer kids back where they belong or keep them safe until the parents show up. For instance, this is why backyard pools in Florida need to have fences around them or some kind of alarm or cover.

If you feel that a property owner hasn’t fulfilled their duty to protect you, and if the incident took place in southwest Florida, contact the All Injuries Law Firm today. Like our name says, we practice personal injury law in all kinds of areas, including premises liability. Contact us today for a free initial case review.