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Negligence in Property Maintenance: Premises Liability


Premises liability is a branch of negligence law that relates to the way real property, and the buildings and other “improvements” on real property, are constructed, maintained, and managed.

As the name suggests, premises liability law deals with the way people (and businesses) that own, manage, or possess property may be held liable for injuries and property damage occurring on–or resulting from the condition of–real property and improvements thereon.


Since premises liability is a form of negligence law, a plaintiff must prove the basic elements of a negligence case: the existence of a legally-recognized duty, the breach of that duty by the defendant, damages (to a person or property), and causation. If the plaintiff cannot prove all four of these elements to the required legal standard, or if the defendant can provide legal defenses that excuse the defendant’s conduct, the plaintiff will not prevail and the defendant will not be legally liable for the damages the plaintiff suffered.


As in other forms of negligence law, premises liability law requires property owners (and those who manage, control, or possess real property) to behave in a reasonable manner. This includes an affirmative duty to manage, maintain, and repair real property (and improvements thereon) to ensure that the property does not create an unreasonable risk of foreseeable harm to people or (other) property. This “standard of reasonableness” is an important one, because it helps the court determine whether or not to hold the defendant liable. While people cannot be expected–and are not legally expected–to protect against absolutely every possible type of injury or damage that could occur, people are expected to behave in a reasonable manner; in the premises liability context, this generally means (among other things) conducting reasonable inspections, making reasonable repairs, and warning people about known or reasonably discoverable hazards.

Liability generally attaches where a property owner–or someone in possession or control of property–fails to act as a reasonable person would under similar circumstances, and an injury results.


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. Most legal claims (and defenses) are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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