What is Premises Liability?

Premises liability is an area of the law concerned with making the proprietor of a piece of property (whether a residence, a business, or an open plot of land) responsible for any injuries that might occur on that property. The winds of decision have changed quite a bit in recent years when it comes to this area of law. It used to be that the proprietor of a piece of property found it difficult to defend himself against such claims. Now many states have laws in effect that are very much in favor of the proprietor, putting a larger burden of evidence on the back of the plaintiff. For this reason, it is important to contact a lawyer with extensive experience with these cases if you wish to bring a complaint.

When it comes to premises liability cases, the first order of business will be to determine if the individual filing suit can be classified as an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser. This classification will go a long way towards determining what type of evidence the plaintiff will have to present to make a case and what types of defense might be open to the possessor of the land. Under normal circumstances, the proprietor will be burdened with a higher degree of duty to an invitee. This invitation could be express or implied, as in the case of a retail establishment. It’s likely that the possessor will be held with the duty of routinely inspecting their establishment to make sure there is no undue risk to invitees.

A licensee is treated in a different manner. An individual is classified as a licensee if they are on the defendant’s property for reasons that are non-commercial in nature. A guest in a social situation would fall under this classification. The possessor in this instance may be held liable for damages if the plaintiff can prove they knew of potential danger but took no steps to warn the licensee.

In the final case–that of a trespasser–the law swings firmly to the side of the defendant. Unless they knew of the trespassers, they have no duty under the law to make their establishment safe for the plaintiff, regardless of whether or not the trespasser was there for an unlawful reason.

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