duties of a property owner

When it comes to legal liability for injuries, property owners have certain duties or obligations to the individuals who come on their property. 

When a property owner fails to meet their obligations, and personal injuries result, the owner can be held responsible for compensating the victim. 

Basically, the duties of a property owner are to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition.  The extent of this duty depends on the reason the individual was visiting the property at the time of the injury.

How are the property owner’s duties determined?

Depending on why a person is on someone else’s property, each individual is classified as either a licensee, invitee, or trespasser.  An invitee is someone who was invited onto the property, usually for a business reason, such as a customer.  An individual can also be a public invitee, like when you visit a public park.  A licensee is someone who has permission to be on the property from the owner.  However, unlike an invitee, the licensee is on the premises for his or her own purposes.  A trespasser, of course, does not have permission to be on the premises at all.

Duties of a property owner

Generally speaking, a property owner has a duty to protect visitors from known dangers.  This means, if the owner knows, or should know, about a dangerous condition on the property, the owner must use ordinary care to reduce or eliminate the danger, or to warn visitors about that danger.  The specific duty owed to an invitee is higher than the duty owed to a licensee.  The owner is only required to take reasonable care to protect a licensee from a known danger. 

However, there is a further duty to invitees, to actually inspect and discover unknown dangers. On the other hand, property owners have no duty to protect trespassers from dangers.

Is there a situation where no duty is owed?

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.

If you have questions regarding premises liability, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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