Premises Liability

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premises liability

Premises liability is a larger umbrella term for multiple personal injury cases that may happen in a range of areas, including public and private property, apartments, the workplace, and others. Premises liability laws help to determine who may be liable for these injuries that occur. If you have been injured on public or private property, you may be entitled to damages. Contacting a highly skilled premises liability attorney to discuss your case during a free consultation is the best way to determine this. They will be able to assess your case and see what can be recovered.

Categories in Premises Liability Cases

In premises liability cases, there are four designations a person could be categorized in. They are as follows:

  • Invitee: an invitee is someone who has been invited onto the premises and is expressly wanted by the owner or occupier. The owner or occupier of the premises is under a duty to reasonably maintain and repair the premises so that the invitee is not injured. The most common example of an invitee would be a customer at a store.
  • Licensee by Invitation: a licensee by invitation is someone who is permitted to be on the premises. The differentiation between an invitee and a licensee by invitation is that the invitee is desired to be on the premises, whereas the licensee by invitation is allowed to be on the premises if the owner or occupier desires them to be. Licensees by invitation are owed a lesser degree of responsibility than an invitee. The owner or occupier must alert the licensee by invitation of any dangers that are not obvious to the licensee by invitation, but is otherwise under no duty to maintain the premises in the way they must if the person was an invitee. Social guests and family members are considered licensees by invitation.
  • Bare Licensee: a bare licensee has even less privilege than a licensee by invitation. They are allowed on the premises with the owner or occupier’s permission, but only for their own purposes. The owner or occupier of the premises has no duty to the bare licensee except to keep from creating dangerous situations either on purpose or through carelessness, or by creating new sources of danger without first warning the bare licensee.
  • Trespasser: a trespasser is a person who does not have permission to be on the premises at all. There is no duty to the trespasser besides avoiding intentional injury to them outside of self defense. The only exception to this rule is if the trespasser is a child, and the premises have been created or maintained in a way that would entice a child to play with it. In this case, it is called the “attractive nuisance doctrine”, and the owner or occupier may be held liable for the child’s injuries, if any occurred.

Though these are the four distinctions for people involved in a premises liability case, their status may change on the premises depending on the circumstances of the case. For instance, a bare licensee may need to use or access something within the premises, so they are invited in. This may change their status to licensee by invitation, depending on what the court decides, and therefore, a higher duty of care may be owed to them.

Duty to Protect from Harm

An owner or occupier’s duty to protect from harm is the duty of care they owe to every invitee, and to a lesser extent, licensee, who steps foot on their property. The three elements an owner or occupier must be able to face in court are:

  • The owner or occupier was aware of, or should have been aware of, the condition of the premises, understood the unreasonable risk of threat it posed to a visitor, and should have anticipated the visitor to not be aware of the danger
  • The owner or occupier failed to exercise their duty of care to the individual and make the area safe, or to notify the visitor that there were unsafe conditions
  • The visitor was unaware of the conditions of the location and the risks that may be involved

According to the law, a person is in possession of a property when they occupy it with the intent to control it, had previously occupied it with the intent to control it, or the location is currently vacant and no one else has occupied with the intent to control in the interim, or they are entitled to the immediate occupation of the premises if no other person is currently in possession of the property.

Prima Facie

Prima facie means “at first sight”. There is often a prima facie case in premises liability cases. In this case, the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff. They must be able to prove that the defendant (the owner or occupier) was negligent and did not provide reasonable care in maintaining or repairing the premises, or failed to warn of the danger, which then led to the plaintiff’s injuries.

Visitor Liability in Premises Liability Cases

The law has something called contributory negligence. This means that if a victim was in any way remotely liable for their accident, even just one percent, they may be barred from recovering any sort of damages. In cases where signs have been posted regarding unsafe conditions, or the owner or occupier gave the visitor either full warning or the danger was obvious and yet the visitor proceeded anyway, resulting in injury, it is very unlikely they will be able to file a claim and receive compensation. Assumption of risk also plays into this. If the injured person was aware of the danger, fully appreciated that there may be injury, and continued with their actions or were otherwise aware of the risks and were injured, they cannot recover damages. By Maryland’s contributory negligence rule, this means that they were fully aware of the danger and understood the risk they were taking and the consequences that may come with that.

Statutory Duties

In addition to the duty of care already discussed, premises owners or occupiers may also be subject to statutory duties, as well. These are duties that are imposed by statute, such as by state or municipal governments for housing or office space. It is considered negligence if a person ignores or acts against the statute, as they are designed to protect a specific classification. Even if the injured party does not fit into one of the categories above under regular circumstances (such as trespassing or being classed as a bare licensee), if they happen to fall under the correct category of people for statutory duties, they may be able to pursue damages if it has been determined that their injuries were directly, or proximately, caused by a failure to adhere to the statutes.

Contact a Premises Liability Lawyer

If you have been injured on public or private property, you may have a premises liability claim. Contact a skilled premises liability attorney within our offices for your free consultation. They will go over the facts of your case, ensure all common law and statutory duties owed to you by the defendant have been examined, and diligently argue your case so that you can receive the damages you deserve.

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