Unsafe Property: Navigating Premises Liability Lawsuits
Updated: Mar 3
Premises Liability (or Unsafe Property) lawsuits traditionally fall under general negligence principles. In every negligence case, you have to prove 4 things:
1. Duty - The Defendant Had a Duty to You
Duty is a legal concept that a person or entity is required to adhere to some standard of care for your wellbeing. In a Premises Liability lawsuit, the standard of care owed to you typically depends upon the reason why you were on their property:
Trespasser – A trespasser is a person who enters or remains upon another’s property without consent to do so. Generally, a property owner owes no duty of care to a trespasser – this means there is no legal responsibility to make a property reasonably safe for a trespasser. However, there are certain exceptions. For example, a trespasser can recover for injuries caused by the property owner’s intentional, willful, or wanton conduct. Children are another exception under the “attractive nuisance doctrine.”
Licensee – A higher duty of care is owed to a licensee than to a trespasser. A licensee is a person who enters or remains upon another’s property, with the landowner's permission, for the visitor’s own purposes rather than for the landowner's benefit – for example, a social guest that visits someone’s home. A property owner is liable for a licensee’s injuries if the property owner knew or had reason to know of a dangerous condition not likely to be discovered by or known to the licensee and failed to exercise reasonable care to either make the condition safe or warn the licensee of the risk.
Invitee – The highest duty of care is owed to an invitee. Invitees include people who are invited to enter or remain upon another’s property for business purposes (e.g., a store or mall) or when the property is open to the general public (e.g., an airport, museum, or park). Property owners must keep their premises safe for invitees, warn invitees of hazardous conditions, and rescue invitees who are in danger.
2. Breach of Duty - The Defendant Breached Their Duty to You
Breach of Duty is when a person or entity fails to adhere to a Duty it had to You. For example, this happens when a Defendant fails to maintain an aspect of their property, creating a dangerous condition for visitors.
3. Causation - The Defendant’s Breach of Their Duty Caused Your Injuries/Damages
Causation simply means that it was the Defendant’s Breach of Duty that caused your injuries or damages.
4. Damages - You Were Injured/Damaged
Damages means that you were hurt in some way. There are many types of damages recoverable under the law, including physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring/disfigurement, loss of life’s pleasures, loss of past and future income, and costs for past and future medical care.
Please understand that this is an oversimplified overview of the law as it relates to negligence in Premises Liability (Unsafe Property) accidents. Even a simple case may have many nuances that only an experienced attorney can address. In many cases, The Oakes Firm hires various “experts” to help prove Your claims – e.g., accident reconstructionist; vocational rehabilitation specialists; and economists.