Property owners are responsible for the safety of every person within and about their property. Willfully ignoring dangers and lack of proper regular maintenance amount to owner negligence, and create a hazardous environment for visitors, employees, and to oneself. Both commercial and residential property owners have a duty to promote safe surroundings. Anything less of a proper observance of this duty can lead to accidents that are often times tied to hefty compensation costs.
An Important Disclaimer: A licensed attorney has not authored this article. It has been issued to spread awareness for premises liability, visitor safety, and accident prevention. As such, readers cannot rely on this document for legal advice and must consult all state laws and local municipality statutes for specific facts about premises liability, as it is applied within their local community.
While the bulk of premises liability is tied with property owners, maintenance contractors, management companies, and leasers are also tied to any potential litigation that arises from personal injuries acquired within a given location.
Navigating the waters of premises liability law might appear daunting, but any property owner should be wise to study the basics because all injuries that occur within the premises have the potential to lead to an expensive lawsuit. In addition, knowledge about the extent of your responsibilities will help in preventing events for which property owners may ultimately become responsible.
What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability refers to the responsibilities of property owners for certain torts that happen within their real property. According to Aeelaw.com, owners are liable for “injuries caused by a variety of hazardous conditions, including open excavations, uneven pavement, standing water, crumbling curbs, wet floors, uncleared snow, icy walks, falling objects, inadequate security, insufficient lighting, concealed holes, improperly secured mats, or defects in chairs or benches (Premises Liability Slip and Fall).” In short, premises liability refers to the responsibility of the person owning the land or premises for injuries incurred by people who are present in their property.
There are 3 tenets or principles necessary for premises liability to apply in any given situation. They are the following:
- The defendant or defendants must be in ownership of the land or premises.
- It is necessary that the plaintiff is an invitee or a licensee, and sometimes even trespassers are considered under this law.
- Property negligence or wrongful acts must be proven to be committed by the owner.
Each type of plaintiff refers to a different type of relationship to the property and its owner. They are defined as follows:
- Invitees are people invited inside the premises for the commercial benefit of the property owner. Store customers, business clients, and other types of patrons fall into the definition of an invitee. Owners must adhere to the standard of care specified for invitees. To make a case of premises liability, invitees have to prove without reproach that the property possessed dangers that the owners must have known about. Commercial businesses are required by law to regularly inspect their premises to guarantee that it is safe.
- Licensees are invited onto the premises for other reasons besides commercial gain. Licensees must prove all of the elements of the invitee, plus additional conditions that the injured party must demonstrate, such as their lack of individual knowledge about property dangers.
- Trespassers have no expressed or implied permission to enter the property. Each state deals with the issue of property trespassers differently. Claims of this type is attributed to a contentious ruling in the California Supreme Court in 1968, titled Rowland v Christian, which remove the significance between different types of plaintiffs. Still, in most cases, California or otherwise, courts tend to side with property holders and not with the trespasser. Unless in very rare cases, as long as owners are without knowledge of any trespassing in their property, they have no duties to protect them from dangers. In cases in which property owners are aware of the presence of the trespasser, several states hold them accountable to warn intruders of the dangers in their property.
Don’t be a negligent property owner!
Commercial property owners are responsible for the safety and well-being of invitees and licensees within their premises. Proper facilities maintenance and inspections must be observed regularly.
Most premises liability claims are for slip-and-fall accidents. One way to protect visitors and customers is to provide ample floor mats to minimize accidents within premises. By trap moisture and debris with floor mats, owners promote safety within the property minimizing premises liability issues in the event of a slip and fall accident.
Resources for this report include:
Premises Liability Slip and Fall. Antin, Ehrlich & Epstein, LLP, Attorneys at Law website. http://www.aeelaw.com/Personal-Injury/Premises-Liability/
Love, Jean C. Landlord’s Liability for Defective Premises: Caveat Lessee, Negligence, or Strict Liability. 1975 Wisconsin Law Review. 19. via Santa Clara Law Review Digital Commons.