Everyone has a right to expect that a property they visit is safe. If a person is injured on the property of another due to a dangerous condition of property, that property owner may be responsible under the law for the harms caused to the injured person. This type of claim is commonly referred to as a premises liability claim.
Premises liability cases are often difficult to prove under the law, and therefore, they are frequently fought by the property owner’s insurance company. You see, it must be proven that there actually was a dangerous condition that caused the person to slip, trip, fall, or in some other way, cause the person to become injured. Just because a person falls on someone’s property doesn’t mean that person gets to automatically collect from the property owner.
Second, the property owner’s responsibility for the injury depends on the status of the injured person. There are three types of visitors to property, and a property owner has a different duty to the visitor, depending on that visitor’s status.
INVITEE: The most common type of invitee is a business patron. For instance, a store wants customers to visit their store and to spend money, so someone shopping at a grocery store is a business invitee. In order for an injured invitee to recover from a property owner for their injuries on a dangerous condition of property in Missouri, the invitee must show that the property owner knew, or should have known, about the dangerous condition of property and failed to either fix or remove the dangerous condition or to warn others about the dangerous condition. Proof of notice of the condition on the part of the property owner can sometimes be challenging.
Example---a shopper at a grocery store falls in a hole at the entrance to the store that has been present for some time, and the store owner knew about the hole and didn’t fix the hole or put warning cones around the hole.
LICENSEE: A person who you invite over to your house for a social gathering is a licensee. It is much harder for a licensee to prove a case against a property owner. In order for a licensee to recover from a property owner for injuries the licensee sustained on that owner’s property, the licensee must show that the owner or possessor of the property had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition. Furthermore, the licensee must show that the licensee didn’t know about the dangerous condition either, and could not have discovered the dangerous condition if the licensee used ordinary care. You must also show that the owner knew or should have known that the licensee was unaware of the condition and could not discover it, and finally, the licensee must prove that the owner failed to use ordinary care to remove the dangerous condition or warn of the dangerous condition.
Example—a homeowner has a hole in his yard that the homeowner knows about, but fails to fill in the hole with dirt.The hole is covered by grass. The homeowner invites a friend over to play football in the yard and the friend (who is a licensee) steps in the hidden hole and breaks his ankle.
TRESPASSER: As you would expect, a trespasser has the most difficult time in proving a case against a property owner for becoming injured on a dangerous condition of property. This is because a trespasser has no right to be on the property. In order for a trespasser to prove that a property owner is liable for an injury the trespasser sustained on the property of the owner, the trespasser must show that the owner had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition, and furthermore, that the property owner had actual knowledge of the presence of the trespasser. This can be very difficult to prove, but there are some exceptions.
Although most people think that a premises liability case refers to a “slip and fall” case, there are other types of premises liability cases that we at Bollwerk & Tatlow handle:
-DOG BITE CASES
-INADEQUATE SECURITY CASES (when a business owner fails to provide adequate security to its patrons and the patron is injured as a result).
-ELEVATOR AND ESCALATOR INJURIES
-INJURIES DUE TO CHEMICAL EXPOSURES
At Bollwerk & Tatlow, we are happy to evaluate cases for premises liability, and we will always give injured people an honest analysis of their case. If we feel the case has a strong potential for success, we will take the premises liability case for a seriously injured person all the way to jury trial.