Premises Liability and Stabbings: When a Property Owner Is Liable

Premises Liability - Stabbing

Unfortunately, innocent people are attacked every day in violent assaults. Many of these assaults occur on someone else’s property, such as a bar, parking lot, shopping center, or school campus. While the perpetrator of the crime is certainly criminally responsible, the property owner may share legal liability if they failed in their duty to provide a safe, secure environment for customers, guests, and visitors.

If you have been the victim of a stabbing on someone else’s property in Florida, you may have a premises liability or inadequate security claim against the property owner or property manager. This can be true even if the person who attacked you is not found or prosecuted. Here is what you should know about how Florida premises liability laws come into play in the case of violent crime.

Understanding Premises Liability Laws

Premises liability refers to an area of law in which property owners, property managers, and landlords can be held legally responsible for injuries or crimes that occur on the property due to unsafe conditions.

Florida law gives property owners and managers a legal duty of care to visitors, residents, and customers to maintain the property and address potential hazards — including conditions that may encourage crime.

Under Florida’s premises liability laws, there are three potential classifications for victims: an invitee, or someone who is invited onto the property for business or personal reasons; licensees who are allowed on the property for their own purposes such as a solicitor; and trespassers. Property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees which includes customers, residents, and guests.

Premises liability is a complex legal concept. Property owners are not responsible for all crimes or injuries that occur on their property. Only when certain elements are met — including a breach of duty that directly led to the crime or injury — can the property owner be held liable.

When Is a Property Owner Liable for a Stabbing?

There are cases in which a property owner or manager can be held liable for a stabbing on the property committed by a third party. These cases often involve negligent security as property owners have a duty to provide adequate security to protect customers and guests from foreseeable harm.

It’s important to understand the difference between any crime occurring on the property and crimes that can be foreseen. Under Florida law, property owners only have a duty to protect visitors and customers from harm they can reasonably foresee. This means a property owner isn’t liable for any attack that occurs on the property.

To prove a premises liability claim after a stabbing, it’s necessary to prove four components:

  • The property owner owed the victim a duty of care. This means the victim must have been on the property legally, as a general rule.
  • This duty of care was breached. This may have been done by failing to provide adequate security, for example.
  • The breach of duty caused the assault.
  • The victim suffered damages.

The first and last elements can be (but are not always) fairly straightforward to establish. It’s proving that the property owner breached the duty of care and that their negligence led to the stabbing that can be difficult.

Establishing Duty of Care

The first step of a premises liability claim involving third-party violent crime is establishing that the property owner owed the victim a duty of care. Customers and invitees are granted the highest duty of care. Someone who is legally allowed on the property but enters the premises for their own purposes or convenience has a lower duty of care.

Consider this difference between the two classifications: an invitee is someone who visits a gas station to make a purchase while a licensee is someone who stops at the gas station to switch drivers and leave. The property owner owes the first person a higher duty of care. Florida courts have ruled that property owners do not owe licensees in this second category the duty of “active vigilance” but should not recklessly expose the person to danger, either.

Once duty of care is established, you must show that the property owner breached their duty of care. This can be complex as property owners must guard against foreseeable crimes and accidents but do not owe a duty to protect against all actions by third parties.

Was the Crime Foreseeable?

Property owners generally have no duty to protect guests and visitors from the actions of a third party but there is a duty when criminal acts are foreseeable and preventable with security measures.

One of the first major burdens in proving these cases is demonstrating that the property owner should have foreseen the risk of a stabbing or other violent crime on the property and failed to take reasonable steps to reduce this risk.

Courts can consider many factors to determine if a stabbing was foreseeable such as:

  • Is the property in an area with a high crime rate?
  • Is there a history of crime on the premises?
  • Did the property owners, managers, or staff have prior known issues with the perpetrator?
  • Was alcohol served to someone who was obviously intoxicated and/or belligerent?

Establishing Causation

The next hurdle to overcome is showing the cause and effect relationship between the property owner breaching their duty of care and the stabbing occurring on the premises. A premises liability attorney will analyze the details of your assault and seek to prove that the property owner’s failure to provide adequate security, training, or supervision either encouraged the crime or allowed it to occur.

Schedule a Consultation with a Premises Liability Attorney

If you have been stabbed by a third party on someone else’s property, you may have a premises liability case against the property owner or manager. These cases are notoriously complex and difficult to prove. An experienced personal injury attorney specializing in premises liability claims can help you investigate your assault and the facts of the case to establish legal liability.

Schedule a free consultation with SteinLaw to speak with a premises liability lawyer about your case to seek fair compensation to help you cover your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering so you can move on with your life and recover from your traumatic assault.

Brandon Stein

Chief Executive Officer

Brandon Stein, the owner and founder of SteinLaw, is a Florida-based trial attorney who focuses on personal injury cases such as wrongful death, car accident, slip and fall, and a variety of other civil litigation areas. Being a former associate at a prominent Florida Defense Law Firm, Brandon Stein understands the strategy and tactics...[READ BIO]