Premises liability is a theory of law that imposes a legal duty upon owners of certain premises to maintain that property in a reasonably safe condition. The most common type of premises liability is the"slip and fall" case, which occurs when a property owner fails to keep his or her premises clear from objects, obstructions, defects, or substances which would pose a danger to visitors. Generally, premises liability claims arise from incidents wherein a customer of a business trips or falls as the result of an icy or slippery surface, uneven pavement, open excavation, or improperly constructed or maintained stairwell.
Premises liability is not, however, a strict liability tort. This means that a property owner is not automatically liable for any and all injuries that occur on his or her property; rather the injured party must prove that the owner knew or should have known of a "defect" in the premises that resulted in the injury. A defect is defined as a condition or characteristic of the premises that poses an unreasonable risk of injury to persons who enter the property.
As stated above, property owners owe their guests a duty to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition which is referred to as their duty of care. The duty of care owed by a property owner varies depending on the nature of the reason why the injured party was on the property. The duty of care falls into the following three categories:
Invitees are persons who enter onto premises for the purpose of conducting business for the benefit of the property owner. Property owners have a duty to invitees to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to repair or warn of known dangerous conditions.
The most common example of an invitee is the patron of a retail store. For instance, grocery stores create dangerous conditions all the time when employees mop or wax floors, making them slippery. The store cannot avoid this hazard unless it stops cleaning its floors. The store can, however, notify patrons of the potentially dangerous condition, therefore satisfying its duty to warn, and avoiding liability for injuries resulting from a fall. Property owners sometimes owe a heightened duty to guarantee the safety of children that may not be able to read or understand warnings or appreciate a particular hazardous situation.
Property owners also owe invitees a duty to regularly inspect their premises in order to discover potentially dangerous conditions. Accordingly, property owners can be found liable for injuries caused by hazards of which they did not have actual knowledge but should have know about.
Licensees are individuals that enter a property for social reasons, such as guests at a party. Property owners owe licensees a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition and to remedy unsafe conditions. Property owners also owe licensees a duty to warn them of known hazards on the property. Unlike an invitee, a licensee is not owed a duty to warn or remedy dangerous conditions that should have been discovered by the property owner.
Despite what any people might thing, property owners do, in face, owe a limited duty to trespassers on their property. Property owners owe trespassers a duty to prevent intentional or reckless injuries. A discovered trespasser, i.e. one that the owner knows is on the property, is also owed a duty to warn of known hazards that the trespasser could not ordinarily detect.
The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC, have extensive experience representing individuals that have been injured as a result of the negligence of property owners. If you or someone you know has been injured on the property of another, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.