The term “premises liability” refers to the responsibility a landowner has for their visitor’s safety. When you think of someone filing a slip-and-fall lawsuit, they are using premises liability laws to justify their claim.
A landowner’s level of responsibility changes depending on the land and its visitors. Some property owners must take the utmost care of their visitors, and others can mostly keep their distance.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of visitors a property can have, revealing the degree of liability the landowner has toward them.
Legally, people who visit a business are called “invitees.”
Our society runs on money, and so does our very survival. When someone enters a business, whether they intend to buy something or not, they could potentially trade their money for goods. Therefore, they are partially trading away their means of survival. Furthermore, that business receives the money, allowing it to profit off its customers.
For all these reasons, a business is responsible for its customer’s safety. The next time you go into a store, notice how carefully everything is placed. Pay attention to how often you see a wet floor sign or some other warning of potential dangers. Most likely, this is not an example of the business having a deep concern for its patrons. It is the business protecting itself from potential lawsuits.
Visitors on public land are also invitees. As residents, they helped pay for this land through taxes, so they are deserving of a high level of care.
Private Property Visitors
When you visit someone’s home or private land, you are a “licensee” on this property.
Essentially, the landowner gives you “license” to use the property as they would. They can, of course, bar you from certain areas. In the areas you do use, however, you are responsible for yourself. If you, for instance, burn yourself while using the stove, it’s legally the same as if the homeowner burned themselves.
Private landowners cannot, however, endanger their visitors. If there is an area of the home that is dangerous, the property owner must inform their visitors ahead of time. They also cannot be grossly negligent, overtly setting up their visitors to be injured.
Believe it or not, all landowners are also responsible for protecting trespassers. Legally, a trespasser has the right to assume there are no unreasonable dangers on a property. For instance, you cannot set up hidden death traps to hurt someone who illegally enters your home.
You may have traps in your yard or a guard dog, but you must provide adequate warning. Your “beware of dog” sign is for your protection, not the trespasser’s.
Trespassers do assume a degree of risk whenever they enter a property. Imagine a homeowner who drops a glass in the kitchen right before leaving. They are in a hurry, so they decide to clean up the mess when they get back. In most cases, this is perfectly fine. The landowner is under no obligation to keep their floors free from glass in case someone breaks in.
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
You must be aware of how children will see your property. This is due to the “attractive nuisance” doctrine. The law recognizes that kids do not always consider the consequences of their actions, and small children may not even fully understand the concept of land belonging to someone.
If you have something on your property that could attract children, you must create a reasonable barrier to keep them from getting in. This includes swimming pools, empty cars or refrigerators, etc.
There is no standardized list of what makes an attractive nuisance. Essentially, you need to look at your land and ask yourself, “Is there anything here that a kid might want to play with?” If your answer is “yes,” then you need a fence, wall, or something else to keep kids out.
Your barrier must also be sound and sturdy. If there is an opening or loose section that’s small enough for a child to squeeze through, you could be held responsible if they hurt themselves on your land.
If you’ve been hurt on someone else’s land, our firm is here to help. You can schedule time with us online or call us now at (904) 701-0591.