Premises Liability

When you are injured while lawfully on someone else’s property, the owner is liable for your injuries if the owner’s negligence caused your injury. This is called premises liability. While premises liability includes slip/trip & fall situations, it is broader because it addresses any unsafe condition and resulting injury, whether caused by a fall or otherwise.

What are the elements of a premises liability case?

If you are injured because of an unsafe condition on property, you will have to show that:

  • You were lawfully on the property (i.e., that the owner invited you or hired you to work on the property), or if not lawfully on the property that the owner knew you were trespassing on the property;
  • That the owner of the property was negligent in dealing with the unsafe condition—that is, that the owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition on the property and failed to repair it (or if repaired, it was repaired in a way that did not fix it or made the condition worse), rope it off, or warn of the condition;
  • The negligence caused your injury.

Examples:

  • You have been hired to paint the ceiling in someone’s house. You begin to do the work, and the ceiling, which is cracked, falls on you and injures you.
  • You are attending a dinner party at an office building. The building has recently been fumigated for insects; you are overcome by fumes and have to be hospitalized.
  • You are playing catch, and your ball goes over a fence onto someone else’s property. The gate is locked, and a sign says, “Danger–Do not enter; ring bell.” You ring the bell, and the owner opens the gate for you, inviting you to his property. The owner tells you to go get your ball, but doesn’t warn you that the yard is full of broken glass. You go to pick up your ball, and your hand gets cut by glass.

What if I trespassed, and I got injured?

In general, if you trespass on someone’s property, the owner does not owe you a duty of care, and therefore, if you get hurt by a condition on the property, the owner is not liable for your injuries, even if the owner knew of the dangerous condition. There are exceptions to this rule:

  • Trespasser Known to Owner: If the property owner knows a trespasser is on his property and acquiesces to his presence, the owner will be liable for injuries just as would any guest;
  • Children and Attractive Nuisance: This doctrine applies to child trespassers. If there is a condition on property, say an unfenced pool, that would be attractive to children, and a child is injured by the condition, the owner is liable even if the child is an unknown trespasser.

I have been injured by a condition on someone’s property and I was an invited guest or a worker on the property:

  • Notify the property owner immediately or ASAP
  • Seek medical attention and otherwise document your claims
  • Your time to sue is limited; contact an experienced personal injury lawyer

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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