How We Can Help with Premises Liability Law
What is an Unsafe Condition?
Unsafe conditions must be clear to an observer. Such examples might include:
Visible damage to a structure
An unrestrained animal
Dangerous chemicals or fumes
Situations created by a lack of proper security
The list of situations that create liability are broad, but courts have rejected claims for being related to conditions that, while ultimately unsafe, did not meet the bar for a liability on behalf of a premises owner. Determining a premises owner’s “duty of care” takes careful analysis and experience.
Additionally, an unsafe condition created by the actions of a premises employee can also create liability. Generally, the third party is an employee, as opposed to an independent contractor, and the action must have been performed in line with how the employer had instructed the employee. For example, if an employer requires that employees clean spills, but fails to train them in how to put out a sign warning of the freshly-washed area, someone slipping on that surface could attempt to hold the premises liable. As one legal expert for Baylor University Medical Center noted, business owners have a duty to ensure employees are properly supervised and ensure “problem” employees are not retained. He notes, however, that nothing can “absolutely” prevent a lawsuit against a property.
What Constitutes Negligence by a Property Owner?
In short, negligence stems from the failure of a premises owner to warn invitees of, or correct, the unsafe condition. An example is a “Beware of Dog” sign in front of a fence keeping the dog away from trespassers. The property owner would be liable if he or she didn’t have a sign in place when a trespasser was bitten by the dog.
Additionally, a property owner who addresses an unsafe condition can still be found liable if the effort was insufficient. An improperly-repaired stair rail that breaks, for example, arguably creates a more dangerous situation than the original broken rail because the user would believe it’s safe. In this example, however, the injured party must be able to show that the rail was improperly fixed, and the property owner knew the rail was incapable of holding a typical user’s weight.
There are exceptions to this level of liability. In the state of Georgia, for example, the law protects premises owners from liability when the invitee was on the property for “recreational” purposes. This applies even when the injury was a result of a failure on the part of the premise owners.