SLIPS, FALLS, AND OTHER PREMISES LIABILITY CLAIMS
Attorney Mark A. Scott is a recognized leader in the field of personal injury and wrongful death litigation. He is a past President of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA), a former member of its Executive Committee and an emeritus member of its Board of Directors. He is a frequent author and lecturer on topics concerning personal injury and wrongful death law, and in 2004, he was a recipient of ITLA's prestigious Trial Lawyer of the Year award.
Premises liability law involves the legal responsibilities of property owners and occupiers to prevent injuries to persons on their property. Such injuries often occur when people slip or trip and fall as a result of icy sidewalks, loose or uneven stairs, poor lighting conditions, defective walking surfaces, or liquid and debris spilled on a floor. Property owner liability for such injuries can vary significantly based upon the facts and circumstances of the case. At Scott Law Office in Kokomo, Attorney Mark A. Scott can evaluate the strength of your premises liability claim and help you recover the damages to which you are entitled.
Premises Liability: General Principles
Some states' premises liability laws focus on the status of the visitor to the property. In such states, the injured person is generally defined as either an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser.
- Invitee. An invitee is someone who is expressly or impliedly invited onto the property of another. The owner owes the invitee the highest duty of care, which includes taking every reasonable precaution to ensure the invitee's safety.
- Licensee. A licensee, by contrast, enters the property for his or her own purposes but is present at the consent of the owner. The owner is required to warn a licensee of hidden dangers, but is not necessarily required to fix them.
- Trespasser. A trespasser enters the property without any right whatsoever to do so. In the case of adult trespassers, the owner generally has no duty of care and need not take reasonable care of his property or warn of hidden dangers. Even if a person was trespassing at the time of his or her injury, he or she may still be able to recover, however, if he or she can show that the owner knew it was likely that trespassers would enter the property. Children are owed a higher duty of care, regardless of whether they are considered trespassers. A landowner's duty to warn is also heightened with respect to children.
In states where consideration is given to the condition of the property and the activities of the owner and visitor, a uniform standard of care is applied to both invitees and licensees. This uniform standard requires the exercise of reasonable care for the safety of visitors other than trespassers. To satisfy the reasonableness standard owed to invitees and licensees, an owner has a continuing duty to inspect the property to identify dangerous conditions and either repair them or post warnings as appropriate.
Proving Owners' Liability in Premises Liability Cases
In proving a premises liability case, an injured person must show that the standard of reasonableness required by an owner has not been met. Perhaps the most difficult element an injured person must prove is the owner's knowledge of the condition causing his or her injury. The injured person must prove that the owner knew or should have known the condition in order for liability to attach, which is often quite difficult to establish.
Defenses to Liability in Premises Liability Cases
One of the commonly applied theories to limit an injured person's recovery is comparative or contributory fault. A visitor has a duty, in most cases, to exercise reasonable care for his or her own safety, and when that degree of care is not exercised, an injured person's recovery may be limited or reduced by an amount attributable to his or her own negligence.
In the cases where a person's injuries are the result of slipping on an icy sidewalk in front of a business or on a grape, lettuce leaf or other food item that has fallen on a grocery store floor, the property owner may or may not be liable for the person's injuries. Although property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain the premises in such a way to prevent injuries to lawful visitors, if a condition of the premises is noticed by a customer or other visitor or should be readily apparent, the property owner may avoid liability because the injured person has also a duty to protect himself or herself against the injury.
The property owner may also avoid liability by establishing that the debris had so recently fallen on the floor or that the ice had so recently accumulated that the responsible persons had no reasonable opportunity to correct the condition and avoid the hazard before the plaintiff fell. In other words, the plaintiff in a slip and fall case, whether it occurs in a grocery store or elsewhere, must show that the owner had a reasonable period of time in which to discover the dangerous condition and in which to remedy it. The determination of what constitutes a reasonable time will vary from case to case.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
Even common accidents such as slips and falls can present complex legal issues and complicated questions of both fact and law. If you have been injured in a premises-related accident, contact Attorney Mark A. Scott today at Scott Law Office in Kokomo to find out your legal rights.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.