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An Overview of Premises Liability


Premises liability is a tort (a legally recognized wrong) and a form of negligence.

Premises liability claims arise when people or property are injured due to a dangerous condition on or caused by real property (land and certain fixtures affixed to land). When a person is hurt or property damaged as a result of dangerous conditions, premises liability may require the owner or person in control of the land to compensate the injured party for his or her damages.


Like other types of negligence claims, a plaintiff can only prevail on a claim for premises liability if he or she can prove the standard elements of a negligence-based claim:

— The existence of a legally-recognized duty;

— A breach of that duty by the defendant (or, in some cases, a person acting on the defendant’s behalf);

— A causal link or connection between the defendant’s breach of duty and the plaintiff’s injury; and

— The plaintiff suffered legally recognized damages.

Generally speaking, people who own or control property have a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care and keep the property in a condition that does not create an unreasonable risk of harm to other people (or other property). The analysis of that duty, as well as whether or not the defendant breached it, is often highly fact specific and varies from situation to situation.


Generally speaking, any person who owns, possesses, or controls property can be liable under premises liability law, assuming the other elements of the legal test are met. While premises liability law used to apply only to the owners of land, the law now creates the potential for liability in any defendant who:

— owns real property.

— controls real property, either pursuant to a lease (rental) or as a result of the person’s actions.

— possesses real property – in some cases, even if that possession is not recognized by law.

The key to understanding premises liability lies in recognizing the goal of this form of negligence: the law believes that people who have the best ability to avoid (or minimize the risk) of harm to others should have an obligation to reduce the risk of that harm occurring, at least to a reasonable extent. No one can prevent all harm, or all injuries, from occurring. However, people who own or control real property have an obligation to take reasonable steps to avoid foreseeable harm to people who enter upon or interact with their property.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Negligence claims are a complicated topic. If you believe you have a claim against a property owner who permitted or failed to repair a dangerous condition, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your possible rights and claims.

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