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People often get injured while on someone else’s property or business. Many different things can cause these injuries: stairways, slick, icy sidewalks, building defects, and even intentional acts of violence. The area of law that governs how the accidents or intentional acts are handled is called premises liability. Premises liability outlines the duties the owner or property occupant has towards those who come onto his or her property. The law generally states that owners have to keep the property reasonably safe and to protect those on the property from any dangerous conditions.
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Most cases in this area proceed with the idea that the landowner/occupant was negligent in some way. To establish this, the plaintiff has to show that the defendant had a duty to meet a certain standard; that the defendant did breach that duty; that the breach was the cause of the injury; and finally, the plaintiff must prove he or she was injured. The landowner/occupant’s duty to the injured also depends on what the person’s legal classification is—Entrants are not all considered the same.
The Owner’s/Occupant’s Duties
The owner’s or occupant’s responsibilities differ depending on if the person entering the property is classified as an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser. Someone the owner/occupant has implicitly or explicitly invited onto the property is an invitee. A person who has implicit or explicit permission from the owner/occupant to be on the property, but is there for his/her own business is considered a licensee. Finally, someone who is on the property without permission is a trespasser.
While most jurisdictions follow these classifications, there are some parts of the U.S. that have rejected or modified them. Some areas place a mandate of reasonable care on all owners/occupants regardless of the type of occupant. The entrant’s classification is only relevant in deciding if the injury that occurred was due to owner neglect. Some other states have added more classifications.
A number of people are injured every year on public sidewalks and roads. One would assume that the government department responsible for the maintenance of these areas would be considered negligent and would be liable for the injuries. However, government departments are traditionally immune from being held responsible for any injuries, via the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity. This states that the government cannot be sued. However, over the years, this doctrine has been modified and reduced, allowing government departments to be sued in some cases. The regulations and laws regarding this are different in each state, but many are similar to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA suspended the federal government’s Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity under specific circumstances, opening it to lawsuits.
Specifically, the FTCA states that the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity does not expand to acts performed by the employees or officers of the government. This means that a premises liability lawsuit can be brought against the United States if the plaintiff can prove that any negligence in the situation meets these criteria:
1) A government employee, acting within his or her scope of authority, caused the negligence.
2) The injured party is owed a duty.
3) A breach in the owed duty occurred because the government knew or had reasonable expectations of knowing about the dangerous condition that led to the injury.
There is one exception to this: the discretionary-function exception. This excludes claims brought about by an action or lack of action by an employee who showed all due care in performing his or her duties. Any claim brought about by the action or lack of action of any duty deemed discretionary is also excluded.
Speak to a Premises Liability Attorney
If you’ve been hurt while on property owned by someone else, you should have your case reviewed by an attorney familiar with premises law. Contact us today to schedule a meeting with one of our professional lawyers.
If you have been injured on someone else’s property, a lawyer can evaluate your case and offer advice about your legal options. Contact Dansker & Aspromonte Associates in New York, NY, today to schedule a consultation with a personal injury litigation attorney to discuss your case.
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