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What is Premises Liability?

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Premises liability involves injuries caused by unsafe or defective conditions on another person’s or business’s property. For example, if you slip and fall on another person’s property due to an unsafe condition, or if an elevator breaks and injures you, these cases would fall under premises liability. If an unsafe condition exists on someone’s property and it causes injuries to an individual, then the owner of the property may be at fault.

A court may follow the “reasonableness” rule to decide whether someone’s injury is the owner’s responsibility. The court will evaluate if the owner was acting reasonably and whether they cared for their property well. In addition, the owner knew their property was unsafe  and did not remedy the hazard, or they did not safeguard their property. Using the slip and fall example, if an owner did not know there was an oil spill on the floor, it is unlikely it will be the owner’s fault unless the spill was so obvious that he should have cleaned it.

Although premises liability laws usually follow this “reasonableness” rule, personal injury laws vary by state. Some use a different rule that categorizes people as “invitees, licensees, and trespassers.”1 California law considers invitees as individuals given permission and invited onto a business property, like a customer in a store. Business owners are responsible for making their property safe by maintaining conditions such as leaky roofs, broken pipes, or spills on the floor. Licensees are defined as social guests, such as friends or family coming over to your house. Owners are accountable for a licensee’s safety to the extent that the owner at least makes reasonable effort to repair unsafe or dangerous conditions. Liability of business owners to invitees differs because business owners have a greater responsibility to keep a safe environment for their guests. Lastly, trespassers, are individuals an owner does not invite onto their property. Owners are not required to ensure the safety of trespassers unless they know of the trespasser (for example, kids who sneak onto a property to use the pool). In this case, the owner is required to use care concerning the trespasser’s safety.

At Kershaw, Cook & Talley, we specialize in personal injury cases including premises liability. If you were seriously injured on a property, and the owner knew of the hazards, call us for a free case evaluation at 888-997-5170.

1 “Premises Liability: Who is Responsible?” FindLaw, http://injury.findlaw.com/accident-injury-law/premises-liability-who-is-responsible.html, June 19, 2017.

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