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.
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.
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 often difficult to establish.
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, then 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.
Even common accidents such as slips and falls can present complex legal issues and complicated questions of both fact and law. Accordingly, if you have been injured in a premises-related accident, an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney at our firm is in an excellent position to advise you on your rights and work with you to pursue a favorable outcome.
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