An owner or occupier of a property has a legal duty to keep their premises safe. The responsibilities of the owner or occupier varies in different states and is based on the classification of the entrant. This is why having a premises liability lawyer for your case is a good idea. You can contact the attorneys at Dankser & Aspromonte Associates in New York, NY to go over the details of your case.
Duty to Safeguard Premises Based on Entrant Classification
According to traditional common law theories, the property owner, possessor or occupier has different duties to those who enter their property based on the classification of the entrant. Entrants are classified in three categories, licensees, trespassers and invitees. An invitee is an individual that receives an expressed or implied invitation to the property by the landowner. A licensee is an individual who goes onto a property with the landowner’s implied or expressed permission, but for his or her own purposes, not for the benefit of the landowner — for example, a social guest. A trespasser is an individual that goes onto property without the permission of the owner.
Invitees: The landowner is required to use reasonable and ordinary care to safeguard their property for the invitee. This would include notifying the invitee of hazardous conditions that aren’t obvious, but are known to the landowner. The landowner must also exercise ordinary care in the conduct of the land’s active operations and conduct reasonable inspections of the property to locate and fix dangerous conditions.
The surrounding circumstances dictate the reasonableness of an inspection. However, for business owners, it would likely be expected for there to be regular, periodic inspections of certain areas where customers frequent. If there are dangerous conditions found by the landowner, but wouldn’t be obvious to an invitee, like loose flooring, the landowner mush notify the invitee. However, if the danger is so obvious to where the invitee would see it, then the landowner doesn’t have to notify the invitee.
Licensees: If there is a dangerous condition that an owner or occupier knows of that could potentially harm a licensee, but the licensee is unlikely to see, then the owner or occupier must warn the licensee. For example, a homeowner would have to notify a social guest about a non-obvious hazardous condition, like a broken handrail or floorboard that looks fine. It is not required of property owners to inspect for defects or repair them for a licensee. It’s also not required of a homeowner to check for dangers before throwing a party. However, the occupier or owner is responsible for exercising reasonable care in the conduct of active operations in order to protect licensees that are known to be on the property.
Trespassers: Owner and occupiers of a property aren’t obligated to undiscovered trespassers. A property owner who does discover a trespasser on his or her property does have the duty to use ordinary care to notify the trespasser or to make safe artificial conditions that could potentially seriously harm or lead to death of the trespasser that he or she wouldn’t likely discover. If a trespasser is found on the property, the owner or occupier must warn him or her of dangerous conditions that is not likely to be discovered by the trespasser, like a hold in the ground that isn’t really visible.
A lot of jurisdictions today follow the common law of classifications. However, there are some in the U.S. that don’t recognize the common law classes of entrants when it comes to determining liability. Some states have adopted a rule that gives the owner and occupiers the duty of providing reasonable care under all circumstances.
Condition of the Property
In a lot of states, the owner or possessor of the property has to exercise reasonable care to ensure the safety of their property for customers, social guests and employees. This typically means that the owner of the property has to periodically inspect the property and either repair the dangerous conditions or provide sufficient warnings of the dangers to entrants.
How often inspections are performed and the decision to repair or warn about a dangerous condition is dependent upon various factors. For instance, it may be required of a property owner to make frequent inspections for the lobby of a building that has constant visitors coming in and out of them, compared to an interior room that has restricted admission and infrequent use. It is likely that the exercise of reasonable care would consist of the owner replacing blown light bulbs in a dark stairway or hanging a sign to draw attention to a slight incline on a wall in a hallway that is well-lit. Whether the efforts of the property owner are reasonable is determined by all of the circumstances surrounding the property’s nature and use.
Call a Premises Liability Attorney
The classification of an entrant determines the land owner’s or occupier’s duty to keep a premises safe. Call the lawyers at Dankser & Aspromonte Associates in New York, NY to schedule a consultation for your premises liability claim and see what your available options are.