What is a premises liability based lawsuit?
A premises liability based lawsuit arises when an owner of real property (this can be a homeowner, or owner of a commercial property) breaches his or her duty of keeping the real property maintained in a reasonably safe condition to a person who has a lawful right to be on the property. If that person gets injured as result of the failure of the property owner to adhere to his or her duty in maintaining a reasonably safe premises, then a premises liability lawsuit may be warranted.
Who can recover against the property owner in a premises liability lawsuit?
Only those who were owed a duty by the property owner may bring a premises liability lawsuit when injured. Determining the status of an injured visitor to the property is crucial in determining whether the property owner owed a duty of maintaining the property in a reasonably safe manner to that injured person.
For example, if a trespasser is on the property, then the duty owed to the trespasser is different than that owed to an "invitee" or a "licensee." An invitee is a person who is on the property for his or her own benefit while an licensee is a person on the property for the benefit of the property owner. Both invitees and licensees are the types of persons who are owed duties by the property owner, while a trespasser is typically one who is not.
The property owner owes an invitee a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe manner, while the property owner is expected to warn a licensee of a potential safety hazard or unsafe condition only if the property owner knew about the issue or reasonably should have known about the issue, and the licensee would be unlikely to discover it on his or her own.
What are some types of premises liability cases?
Slip and Falls
"Slip and falls" are the most common form of premises liability cases, and arise when a property owner is negligent in failing to maintain in a safe condition areas on the property, such as wet or slippery floors or icy steps or walkways.
Trip and Falls
"Trip and falls" are like slip and fall cases except the injured person does not slip but trips over an impediment that should not be there. Examples of these kinds of cases are unsecured rugs and carpets, hidden extension cords or electrical equipment wiring apparatuses, or unmaintained portions of a sidewalk or parking lot (such as an uneven portion of a concrete sidewalk that is either protruding or is indented and not properly smoothed out).
Negligent maintenance of structure
These kinds of cases are brought when someone is injured as a result of the property owner negligently maintaining his/her/their property. Examples of these types of cases are when someone falls down the stairs as a result of a defective staircase or landing, or when the roof falls in/collapses on to someone as a result of the negligent maintenance of the drywall and areas above.
Swimming Pool injuries
Examples of swimming pool injuries are when a person is injured due to the negligent maintenance of the pool, the equipment therein (such as the drains) or its surrounding areas by the property owner. Other examples of swimming pool based premises liability cases are when a child breaks in to the pool and is injured due to there being insufficient fencing to keep that child out (this is called an "attractive nuisance"). If the child dies as a result of the attractive nuisance, then this not only is premises liability matter, but also a "wrongful death" matter. (See the wrongful death page for an explanation of what those cases entail).
Another common type of premises liability based lawsuit is when a person is injured on a property owner's premises, due to there being insufficient security provided by that property owner. The person's injuries must have also been a reasonably foreseeable occurrence from the property owner's failure to take reasonable measures to provide adequate security to visitors. Property owners who are often found liable in these kinds of cases are casinos, nightclubs, hotels and shopping malls. Foreseeability is a critical issue in these cases. In most jurisdictions, courts will determine foreseeability primarily based on whether there were prior similar crimes committed or incidents which occurred in the same location where the person was injured and whether the property owner knew or reasonably should have known about those prior crimes or incidents.