Premises Liability concerns accidents that occur when someone is injured due to the negligence of a property owner. Serious injuries can be suffered when staircases break or porch decks collapse due to poor construction or maintenance.
Other examples are the slip, trip and fall accidents that occur in grocery stores, retail shops, restaurants, parking lots, office buildings, and similar places. People who suffer injuries in these accidents have a right to bring legal action against the property owner, if the owner was negligent in the manner in which the property was kept.
Many types of accidents can fall under the theory of premises liability in Pennsylvania. Of course, each type must be examined on a case by case basis. For example, a person bitten by a dog on property where the injured party was invited, or is open to the public, may argue negligence theories under premises liability, depending on the duty charged to that particular landowner.
You won’t find a statute or law specifically named ‘Premises Liability” in Pennsylvania. It is simply the name of the legal theory under which an injured party would bring a claim or lawsuit. The theory implicates concepts of tort law, negligence, duty, foreseeability, breach and other gears in the machinery of negligence law in Pennsylvania.
Premises Liability cases begin with an analysis of the parties involved. Pennsylvania has adopted the analysis of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. First, it must be determined whether the injured person was a licensee, invitee, business invitee, or trespasser. Next, it must be determined what duty or standard of care is owed by the property owner to that class of person.
A common example is the situation of a business and its customer. A customer is ordinarily considered a business invitee and owed the highest degree of protection. The owner of the premises can be subject to liability for injuries caused to invitees by an unsafe condition.
However, that liability will attach only if the premises owner knows or by the exercise of reasonable care should know, that the condition involves an unreasonable risk of harm to invitees, should expect that invitees will not realize or discover the danger or will fail to protect themselves against it, and the owner fails to exercise reasonable care to protect invitees from the danger.
In some cases a visitor may be considered a licensee, or sometimes a “gratuitous” licensee. Generally, a licensee is defined as a person who is privileged to enter or remain on the land by virtue of landowner/business owner consent. The “gratuitous” licensee is one who is upon the premises only for the licensee's own purpose, in which the owner has neither a business or social interest. Even when a licensee performs some minor or incidental service for the business or landowner, this does not automatically demonstrate that the licensee is either an invitee or business visitor.
Property owners have very little duty of care to trespassers. A trespasser under the Restatement (Second) of Torts is defined as a "a person who enters or remains upon land in the possession of another without the privilege to do so created by the possessor's consent or otherwise." It is generally held that a trespasser may recover for injuries sustained on land only if the possessor of land was guilty of wanton or willful negligence or misconduct.
However, children can be an exception to the general rule. Under the attractive nuisance doctrine, property owners have a duty to make their premises reasonably safe for children that might be attracted to the premises. Examples might be a lake, swimming pool, or other attraction on the land where a child may not recognize or appreciate the danger.
At the moment someone suffers a serious injury, they are rarely thinking of claims, lawsuits, or evidence needed to support their claims. However, what a person does just after the accident is important. A dangerous condition (whatever caused the accident) is often corrected or repaired quickly, and important evidence can be lost.
The injured party should call 911 and request immediate medical attention. If possible, the injured person (or companion) could take cell phone photos of the dangerous condition. Without photo evidence, the case may need to rely only on witnesses. Our firm has often been able to secure security camera evidence from the premises to document the existence of the dangerous condition and the event.
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If you or a loved one have been injured because of a hazardous or dangerous condition on someone else’s property, act fast to protect your legal rights. Call us now for a free consultation. With over 20 years of experience in serious injury and wrongful death cases, we have probably seen a situation like yours before. Your consultation is free – and we never charge any fee unless we obtain a money recovery for you. Call 1-800-755-0245 or send an instant message through this website. We look forward to helping you.
IMPORTANT: Every case is unique in its facts and circumstances. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended as legal advice for any particular case. CONTACT US NOW for a thorough analysis of your situation and the particular rights and remedies that may apply.
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