What is Premises Liability?
By law, property owners have a duty to certain people who live, work, or enter upon their property. In many cases, the law also imposes this duty on people who manage or control property.
If someone suffers an injury at your home or business, you may (or may not) end up on the receiving end of a claim–or a lawsuit. Knowing your rights, and obligations, may help you manage your property better and avoid unwanted liability.
WHAT IS PREMISES LIABILITY?
“Premises liability” is the legal term for the liability an owner (or manager) of land to third parties for injuries (and events) occurring on the owner’s land, or in the property owner’s home. In the weeks to come, we’ll be exploring this topic in detail.
As a general rule, the law subjects people who own or control land (or dwellings) to two categories of duty arising from the property they own or control:
1. The General Duty of Ordinary Care. Every person who owns or manages property is responsible for injuries which result from the owner (or manager)’s failure to exercise ordinary care in maintaining and managing the property.
2. The Special Duty to Prevent Harm. In addition to the general duty, owners or managers of land may have a special duty to prevent harm to people with whom the property owner (or manager) has a legally recognized “special relationship.” We’ll take a closer look at these relationships in the weeks to come, but some examples are landlord/tenant and business/customer. Whenever you invite or knowingly permit another person onto your property, you should be aware that a “special relationship” may exist. (This isn’t always strictly true, but better safe than sorry.)
In some cases, courts may also decide that a duty is owed in other circumstances. Whether or not a special relationship and/or a duty to an injured person exists is usually an “issue of law” – which means it’s determined by the court as opposed to a jury.
WHO NEEDS TO WORRY ABOUT PREMISES LIABILITY?
The duties which give rise to premises liability arise from “ownership, possession, or control” of premises (which, in this context, means land or buildings placed on land). The word “OR” means the requirements are disjunctive–which means that any one of the three elements may be enough to impose liability.
If you own, possess, or control real property (land, a business, a home, or a building), you need to know about premises liability. Don’t wait until it’s too late, or your lack of knowledge may cost you in more ways than one.
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Premises liability is a complex legal topic, and no single article can provide complete or comprehensive coverage or information about this or any other legal topic or issue. Your personal liability may differ, based on your individual facts and circumstances. If you believe you have a legal claim or issue, or wish to know more about your individual rights, consult an experienced attorney without delay.