Property Owners are required to keep their premises in a safe condition for guests and residents. Premises liability is often referred to as slip and fall cases but it includes any injury sustained on someone else’s property as a result of the owner’s breach of duty to use ordinary care so that his or her property is free of hazards. Premises liability claims include:
- Slippery floors
- Broken steps
- Inadequate lighting
- An assault by a patron drinking at a bar or restaurant if obviously intoxicated
- Lack of a handrail
- Falling objects
- Substances or items on the floor
- Failure to warn
In most jurisdictions, a claim for injuries under premises liability law will depend on the status of the injured party.
Retail store, grocery stores and restaurant owners invite people onto their property to provide services or goods. Patrons are considered business invitees and as such are owed a high degree of care by the property owners. Mail carriers and building contractors are also considered invitees in these circumstances. Property owners are required to inspect their property for known and unknown hazards that constitute an unreasonably dangerous condition and to remedy them or to warn invitees of the dangers.
The same duty of care may apply to city parks or sidewalks, though most municipalities have legislation limiting its liability to misconduct by the city that is intentional or willful or under other certain limited situations.
Business owners, however, do not have a duty to warn you of open and obvious hazards. Also, a property owner must have had reasonable notice of the hazard by either having inspected the property or being alerted to it. For example, if a slippery substance is spilled on the floor and someone slips on it minutes later, the owner probably did not have sufficient notice to confer liability. If the substance had been there for sometime, such as an hour, that might constitute constructive notice so that the owner should have been aware of the hazard had it exercised the duty of care owed to an invitee.
As someone invited to be at someone’s home, either expressly as a guest or implicitly such as police, firefighters, meter readers, or mail carriers, you are considered a guest or licensee.
In this case, the property owner does not have as high a duty of care and need not regularly inspect the property for hazards, but still retains a duty to repair conditions that are known or should have been known to exist. For instance, if an outside stairway has had no lighting or railing for a long time, the homeowner has a duty to either warn the guest or invitee or make the stairway safe. Hidden dangers, however, may not expose the owner to liability.
Trespassers are those who are not invited onto someone’s property. Accordingly, they do not have the same protection as an invitee, guest or licensee. In this case, the landowner only has an obligation to protect trespassers, or anyone else, from man-made conditions that pose an unreasonable risk of serious bodily injury or death. This usually implies traps or other devices property owners employ that can maim or kill a trespasser.
An exception is young children who are incapable of appreciating a hazard that might be obvious to an adult such as an old refrigerator with a door that can trap someone. This would also apply to an unfenced watering hole or swimming pool that attracts an uninvited child to use it.
Premises liability cases have its own unique issues and standards of proof that require the knowledge of a legal professional experienced in handling these types of cases.
If you have been injured as a result of the negligent maintenance of a property, please contact The Law Offices of Duane O. King today for a free consultation to have someone explain and protect your rights.