The Duty to Warn of Dangerous Conditions on Property
PEOPLE WHO OWN (OR POSSESS, OR CONTROL) REAL PROPERTY HAVE A DUTY TO WARN OTHERS OF DANGERS AND HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS.
As with all of the duties and obligations in premises liability law, the duty to warn applies not only to landowners and landlords, but to anyone who owns, possesses, or controls real property.
People responsible for land, to whom this duty applies, have a legal obligation not only to inspect and maintain property in reasonably safe condition, but also to warn others of dangerous conditions. The dangerous conditions requiring a warning are those occurring on, or involving, the land and anything existing on the land (including, but not limited to, buildings, landscape features, and naturally occurring conditions).
THE NATURE OF THE LEGALLY REQUIRED WARNING VARIES
In some cases, the duty to warn may be satisfied with a spoken warning to people entering the land; however, it’s never a good idea to depend on verbal warnings alone. In many cases, verbal warnings are insufficient. Also, verbal warnings cannot reach anyone who enters the land when no responsible person is there to provide or deliver the warning.
Clear, posted warning signs near hazards can provide actual warnings, but are not guarantees that the land owner or possessor has complied with his or her legal duty. Land owners have a duty to repair and maintain property as well as a duty to warn, so relying entirely on signs is not a wise decision. However, wherever possible, smart landowners post signs warning of hazards–obvious as well as hidden. (This is one reason you often see “Warning: Wet Floor / Slipping Hazard” signs in grocery stores and other shops, especially when a floor has been recently cleaned.)
In some cases, the condition is so clear, and so clearly dangerous, that no additional warning is required. However, it’s never wise to depend on this. Warning signs and prompt repairs are always better than risking liability.
THE DUTY TO WARN AND REPAIR MAY APPLY TO DANGERS CREATED BY SOMEONE ELSE’S ACTIONS
The duty to warn of dangers and to minimize hazards on property applies to naturally occurring conditions, conditions created by the land owner (and people under his or her control), and even to many types of dangers created by someone else’s actions (or inactions).
If you notice a dangerous condition on your property (or are injured by a hazard on someone else’s), do not delay. Waiting could result in injury to someone else–or in the loss of your legal rights.
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 and premises liability claims are complicated and fact-dependent. 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.