Property owners, and those who have control over property, have a legal responsibility and duty to keep their property in a safe condition for those who enter. Property owners are liable to those injured on their property if they did not comply with their legal obligation to keep their property in a safe condition. Premises liability cases range from a trip and fall on a public sidewalk, to an injury that occurs in a mall or store, to a dog bite, to an injury caused at an amusement park.
Legal Responsibility in a Premises Liability Case
The specific legal responsibility of a property owner is determined by the type of property, the status of the individual who is injured, and the status of the property owner.
TYPE OF PROPERTY
Public – a public entity is responsible for injuries cause by a dangerous condition of its property only if the injured individual proves that the property was in a dangerous condition, which caused injury, that the public entity had notice of the condition, that an employee of the public entity allowed the creation of the dangerous condition, and that the public entities actions and/or omissions were palpably unreasonable. However, the owner of a residential property to abuts a publicly owned property under certain circumstances may be liable for injury caused by the condition of the public property.
Private – the conduct of the owner or occupier of private property does not have to be palpably unreasonable for the property owner to be liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on its property. An owner or occupier of private property must act as a reasonable person would to ensure their property was safe, depending upon the status of the individual injured on its property, as discussed below.
STATUS OF THE INJURED INDIVIDUAL
Invitee – an invitee is a person who is invited to someone’s property for the benefit of the owner/possessor. An example of an invitee is a customer at a store. The owner/possessor of the property has a duty to exercise ordinary care to ensure the premises is reasonably safe. The owner/possessor must take steps to warn of dangerous conditions or make safe dangerous conditions that the owner/possessor actual knows of or should discovery.
Social guest – a host has no obligation to make his or her home safer for guests and the host is not required to inspect the property to discover dangerous condition. However, if a host knows or should know that a dangerous condition exists the host must either warn of the condition or use reasonable care to make the condition safe.
Licensee – a licensee is a person who is permitted to enter the property, but is not invited by the owner/possessor. Examples are salespeople or solicitors. If the owner/possessor of the property knows of a dangerous condition and could anticipate that the individual would not observe the condition then the owner/possess must either warn of the condition or make it reasonably safe. However, a owner/possessor does not have to look for hidden defects.
Trespasser – an owner or occupier of property owes a duty to a trespasser to refrain from acts which willfully injure the trespasser. However, an exception exists for those trespassers that are children. An owner or possessor of property is liable for harm to a trespassing child caused by an artificial condition if the owner/possessor knows or should know that children are likely to trespass on its property where the condition exists, the owner/possessor knows or should know that the condition could result in a risk of death or serious injury, the child did not discovery the condition or did not realize the risk associated with the condition, and the owner/possessor fails to act reasonably to eliminate the danger or protect minor trespassers.
Premises liability cases, whether involving a trip and fall, slip and fall, inadequate lighting, an accident at an amusement park, store, friend’s home, or mall, can be complex and the law that applies to them is very nuanced. The attorneys at Cerussi & Gunn, P.C. have the skill, experience, and resources to properly investigate and pursue the case, hiring the best experts to a successful resolution. We understand the law that applies to premises liability cases and have the knowledge and resources to properly investigate and pursue your case all while taking the time to explain each step of your case to you.