Have you ever had children trespass on your property and felt like an unfriendly neighbor for telling them they can no longer ride their bikes or ATVs there? While you might think you’re nagging them, you are actually protecting yourself from liability because if one of them falls and gets injured on your property, you could potentially be sued. Property ownership requires some upkeep and, in some cases, even routine inspections to make sure the premises are safe.
People who are considered to have invitee status in premise liability are typically people visiting business locations such as restaurants, grocery stores, or department stores. Invitees are usually on the property for the property owner’s financial gain rather than a friendly social visit. They can also be people in public places such as parks and sidewalks because of their implied invitation to lawfully be there.
Owners that invite people onto their business premises owe people the duty of care to maintain the premises so that they are safe and additionally repair any hazardous conditions. Whether an invitee slips and falls on a food item at a grocery store or is injured by broken equipment in a park, these lawsuits entail figuring out how reasonable it would have been for the owner to foresee the harm and whether he or she knew or should have known about the dangerous condition.
Licensees are people invited to visit a location for social purposes. These people include friends or family that visit someone’s home for a party or holiday gathering. Property owners owe licensees a duty of care to inform them about any known dangers on the premises that are not obvious to the licensee. For example, lawsuits involving this liability can arise when a homeowner knows about a condition on their property that could potentially be dangerous to his or her guests and does not warn about it.
Trespassers are people who are on another’s property uninvited and/or no longer welcomed. The least amount of duty of care is owed to trespassers. However, property owners are always prohibited from setting up dangerous traps that could injure or kill someone by trespassing onto their property. While it is more difficult for a trespasser to successfully sue (as opposed to someone who was lawfully on the property), there have been some successful cases.
Traditionally, homeowners do not need to warn trespassers of dangerous conditions. However, once a homeowner discovers a trespasser and fails to ask him or her to leave, a higher duty of care will be owed. Furthermore, a property owner can likely be held liable if a child is injured by a dangerous condition on the property, whether or not the child was invited. This “attractive nuisance doctrine” protects children and could include a slippery artificially rocked pond that a reasonable adult would know is dangerous, but a child would not.
If you are injured on someone else’s property or need advice about someone injured on your own property, call The O’Brien Law Firm so we can confidentially discuss what happened. We are one call away and ready to help at (716) 907-7777.