Premises Liability

For our latest blog post, we thought we would share a question from a recent visitor to our website.

Q: I own a rental property in Tallahassee and serve on the condominium’s Board of Directors.  We have an unlit parking lot.  The Board is concerned that the Directors may be individually liable if there is a crime in the parking lot.  The community has many FSU students as renters and I admit I am worried about one of the young women being attacked. Can I be sued if there is an attack in our unlit parking lot.

A: Florida law is mixed on this issue and whether there will be liability by the Association or a member of the Board of Directors individually will depend on the particular facts of each case. In the past, Florida law has held that where the association has undertaken security measures or advertised security measures, and those security measures are inadequate, the association can be held liable if those security measures fail to prevent a crime. As an example, if a condominium advertises to prospective buyers that the property has surveillance cameras and a twenty-four hour armed guard, the association may be liable if a resident is attacked and the cameras did not work and the armed guard only worked 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, you state that your parking lot is unlit, so for the purposes of this answer, I will assume that your community has not undertaken any special security measures.

Recently, Florida courts have extended liability under certain situations that may make associations liable for failure to correct inadequate security when they the association has knowledge that a dangerous condition exists on the property.  Under certain circumstances, this could include inadequate lighting in your parking lot, now that you have knowledge of the problem.  For recovery,  a crime victim may be able to obtain money damages from the defendant association if he or she can provide sufficient evidence that there was (1) a dangerous condition on the property, including inadequate lighting in a parking lot and (2) the defendant knew — or reasonably should have known about it, but (3) he or she did not take reasonable steps to make the place safe or at least minimize the danger and (4) as a result, the plaintiff was hurt.  Whether this liability extends to individual Board members in their personal capacity is an open question.  You should consult with your association’s insurance carrier to verify that you have insurance coverage for such an event and whether the policy covers individual Board members.  Thank you for your question.