Understanding Florida’s Recreational Use Statute
After months of quarantine, Floridians have become experts at looking for ways to have fun outdoors in a safe manner. In general, business and property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care toward any visitors to their premises. However, Florida’s legislature has created an exception of sorts in what is known as a recreational use statute. If you choose to spend time outdoors, on land or water, it is important that you are aware of the potential liability you may be accepting.
No Duty Of Care Owed
In general, when someone visits someone else’s property, the landowner’s duty of reasonable care is in full swing, which means that the landowner or business owner must take steps to make their property safe for guests (or at least for certain guests; generally, no duty is owed to trespassers except to refrain from maliciously injuring them). If an invitee is injured on another person’s property, the landowner may be held liable for their injuries if they can establish that the duty of care has been breached.
With the recreational use statute in place, a landowner’s duty to care is essentially removed. The removal of any duty of care is in exchange for landowners making their property available to the public. If a landowner provides an outdoor recreational area for the public, the law explicitly states that they are not making any guarantees as to safety, and specifically disavow any liability for a person’s actions while they are on that land. In theory, opening one’s property to the public requires work and upkeep; the removal of the duty of care is seen as an acceptable quid pro quo.
Exceptions To The Statute
While the recreational use statute governs most of the occasions where the average person uses newly-public land, there are exceptions to the statute itself, as it is an exception to Florida’s premises liability law. The statute does not protect a landowner from liability incurred by “deliberate, willful or malicious injury to persons or property.” It can be difficult to establish that a landowner’s actions were malicious or deliberate, but it is possible.
The other common exception to the statute is if the landowner derives some kind of economic benefit from the public’s use of their land. Even if someone does not charge admission, they might charge for anything from souvenirs to food to boat licensing. The rationale for imposing the duty of care if economic benefit is derived is that the landowner should not have a double windfall; after all, if they are making money off public presence on their land, they should not benefit from a lack of a duty to guarantee safety as well.
Contact A Tampa Personal Injury Attorney
If someone chooses to open their land to public use, they do not have to exercise due care toward their visitors. However, if you are injured on land that is subject to the recreational use statute, you may still have a case for premises liability. Consulting a Tampa personal injury attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help answer any questions you have about these matters. We are happy to try and assist. Call our offices today for a free consultation.