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Premises liability and a property owner's duty to trespassers

People may have a "no trespassing" sign posted on the entrance to their property, but this does not always keep trespassers away. And, unfortunately, sometimes a person is injured or killed while trespassing on another's property. When this happens, it is important to understand how premises liability applies to trespassers under Florida law.

A property owner is not civilly liable for trespassers who are injured or killed on their property if the trespasser's blood-alcohol level is at or above 0.08 percent. That being said, a property owner may be liable if he or she was grossly negligent or intentionally engaged in misconduct that was the proximate cause of the trespasser's death or injuries.

In addition, in certain circumstances a property owner is not civilly liable for trespassers, either discovered or undiscovered, who are injured or killed on their property. A property owner will not be liable to undiscovered trespassers -- meaning those who are on the property without invitation and whose presence was unknown to the property owner within a day prior to the accident -- so long as the property owner does not engage in any intentional misconduct that is the proximate cause of the trespasser's injuries. In this situation, the property owner owes no duty to the trespasser to provide the trespasser with any warnings regarding dangerous property conditions.

A property owner will not be liable to discovered trespassers -- meaning those who are on the property without invitation but whose presence was known by the property owner within a day prior to the accident or whose presence was brought to the property owner's attention by a reliable source within a day prior to the accident -- so long as the property owner does not commit any gross negligence or engage in any intentional misconduct that is the proximate cause of the trespasser's injuries. In this case, the property owner does have a duty to warn the trespasser of any dangerous property conditions that the property owner knows of but are not necessarily observable by other people.

This information can be found in the Florida Statutes, and does not constitute legal advice. Property owners who have questions about their liability with regards to trespassers, or those who have been injured when trespassing on another's property should seek the help they need to better understand how the law applies to the unique facts of their case.

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