In premises liability case, the success of the claim depends on whether there was a legal duty the property owner had to keep the premises safe, and whether that duty was breached. Not all injuries that occur on someone else’s property result in liability. The exact nature of a property owner’s legal duty depends on many factors. Here are the answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions about these types of personal injury cases.
Q. What duties does a premises owner have?
A. The duty a property owner owes to someone visiting the property depends on the classification of the visitor. Generally speaking, property owners have a duty to take reasonable care to protect the visitor from known dangerous conditions on the property. If the owner knew of a condition on his property that would pose an unreasonable risk of harm, which his visitors could not reasonably be expected to recognize, the owner must take reasonable care to either eliminate the danger or warn visitors.
Q. What is a “licensee?”
A. Unlike a trespasser, both a licensee and an invitee have the permission of the property owner to be on the property. The difference between licensee and invitee is that, a licensee is there for her own amusement, whereas an invitee is usually there for the benefit of the property owner. A licensee would be, for example, a guest at a party or a family friend who is visiting. Although they have an invitation or permission to be on the premises, there is no direct benefit to the property owner.
A more uncommon example of a licensee could be a person who enters a store or business, but is not there to shop. Instead, he may just be asking for directions, or to use the restroom. In that case, he would be considered a licensee instead of an invitee.
Q. What is an “invitee?”
A. An invitee is someone invited onto the premises for the benefit of the property owner. There are two types of invitees: a business invitee or a public invitee. The distinction is really the type or property or the reason for the visit. For instance, if you are at a store to buy merchandise being sold by the store, then you are clearly a business invitee. If the property happens to be made available to the public, such as a park or library, then you would be considered a public invitee.
Q. Who is a trespasser and what duty is owed?
A. A trespasser is someone who is present on property owned by someone else, without permission to be there. In terms of liability, trespassers can be classified as either discovered or undiscovered. If someone is an undiscovered trespasser, then the landowner in questions has a duty only to refrain from willful or wanton misconduct. On the other hand, if a landowner knows that trespassers have been on the property before, then trespassers can be classified as “discovered” trespassers, to whom the landowner now owes the duty of ordinary care to warn of danger.
Q. Is there a situation where no duty is owed?
A. There are exceptions. If a dangerous condition is “open and obvious,” meaning it is easy to detect, then visitors are normally expected to protect themselves from the danger. As for trespassers, if the property owner is aware that people are trespassing on the property with regularity, then the owner may be required to take some reasonable action to protect the trespasser as well. For example, if a property owner knows that people in the neighborhood routinely use their property as a shortcut to the park, then a duty may arise to, at least, post a warning.
Q. Who is responsible for injuries on commercial property?
A. Liability for injuries that occur at an office, store or other business will depend, in part, on what the lease or any other business agreement says about liability issues. In many cases, the business will have liability insurance coverage that may apply to your claims. This is why it is important to immediately report any injuries you sustain to the business management, so their insurance carrier can be notified.
Q. Who is responsible for injuries on rented property, the landlord or the tenant?
A. Landlord tenant law is usually pretty uniform in that the landlord is responsible for everything outside the apartment unit itself. This would include areas such as entrances, stairways and hallways. Landlords are also responsible for immovable objects, such as floors, walls, fixtures and any appliances that were already in the apartment. Consequently, the tenant is responsible for his or her own things, which are the movable things inside the apartment. There may be an exception, however, if the tenant knew about a dangerous condition inside the apartment, relating to something immovable, but says nothing, the tenant may be liable along with the landlord.
If you have other questions regarding premises liability claims, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (800) 364-8305.