Premises Liability: November 2009 Archives

November 5, 2009

Firemen and Police Officers Can Sue Property Owners in Florida

Prior to the enactment of Florida Statute § 112.182 in 1990, police officers and firefighters in Florida were not able to sue property owners for ordinary negligence that resulted in injury while they were on duty.  Police officers and firefighters were considered licensees upon the premises they were responding to, and the owners or occupiers of the premises only had to refrain from wanton negligence or willful conduct and were only responsible for warning of known, unseen dangers.  The justification for such a rule was that firefighters and police officers often respond to emergency situations at unexpected times and locations on the property of people in need.

However, with the enactment of Fla. Stat. § 112.182, the Florida legislature statutorily defined firefighters and police officers as invitees and effectively abolished the common law Firefighter Rule.  Under this statute, property owners owe a duty of care to firefighters and police officers lawfully on the premises to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to correct and warn of dangers the owner either knows of or should have known of with reasonable care and inspection.  This change put police officers and firefighters into the same status as any other person lawfully on the property.  See Potts v. Johnson, 654 So.2d 596 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1995).

Law Offices Cytryn & Velazquez used § Fla. Stat. 112.182 to the benefit of one of its clients early in the statute's infancy.  Our firm represented a police officer that was injured on county property while responding to an urgent call.  As he stepped out of his vehicle, the officer stepped into a drainage ditch that was inadequately marked and blocked off, and the officer suffered a broken leg.  The abolition of the Firefighter Rule in Florida levels the field for police officers and firefighters that are lawfully upon the property of another while on duty, and allows them to recover for injuries sustained do to the property owner or occupier's negligence in maintaining the property.

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