4-11. Premises Liability
Property owners are required to protect visitors and guests from injuries while on their property.
Whether this is in the form of upkeep of the premises, providing sufficient security, safety and lighting, or even from animals or other people on their property.
Premises liability is the liability for a landowner for certain torts that occur on the real property. Premises liability law is the body of law which makes the person who is in possession of land or premises responsible for certain injuries suffered by persons who are present on the premises.
For premises liability to apply:
• The defendant must possess the land or “premises.”
• The plaintiff must be an invitee or, in certain cases, a licensee. Traditionally, trespassers were not protected under premises liability law. In 1958, the California Supreme Court entitled Rowland v. Christian, which abolished the significance of legal distinctions such as invitee, licensee, or trespasser in determining whether one could hold the possessor of a premises liable for harm.
• There must be negligence or some other wrongful act.
• In California, premises liability law requires that property owners must ensure the safety of children, regardless of whether they are supposed to be there or not.
An invitee is a person who is invited upon the premises in order to conduct business with the possessor. For example, shoppers are invitees of department stores because the department store welcomes shoppers to purchase merchandise on its premises. Possessors of property owe invitees the highest duty of care.
A licensee is a person who is present for a non-commercial, non-business purpose at the consent of the possessor of the property, such as a social guest at someone’s residence.
Property owners owe the lowest duty of care to trespassers. Property possessors have no duty to warn trespassers of dangers naturally occurring on the premises, such as quicksand. However, if the possessor is aware of the trespasser, then usually a duty arises to warn the trespasser of dangerous, man-made conditions on the property, such as an electric fence that emits a lethal shock.
Premises owners are typically charged with clearing public sidewalks in front of their premises, and to maintain their premises so as not to pose a danger to members of the public who are passing by on a public street or sidewalk.
Premises liability cases come in many varieties. Some examples include:
• Slip and fall where substantial injury occurs. Slip and fall cases occur where the injured person has been invited or granted permission to be on the premises. The injured person must prove misconduct on the part of the property owner or occupier. The owner or occupier of the premises must have used reasonable care to maintain the premises in a safe condition and warn the invitee of any concealed dangers.
• Swimming pool drowning. The owner of the premises must take measures to insure that the facility is reasonably safe.
Premises liability injuries can range from injuries caused by hazardous conditions, including open excavations, uneven pavement, standing water, crumbling curbs, wet floors, uncleared snow, icy walks, falling objects, inadequate security, insufficient lighting, concealed holes, improperly secured mats, or defects in chairs or benches.
Contact a business law attorney at the Williams & Williams Law Firm
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