Most people take reasonable precautions to prevent injury to guests, customers, and anyone else who may happen upon their property — the law typically requires you to take such action. However, some people neglect these common-sense responsibilities and allow dangerous conditions to develop or fester on property that is under their control. If an injury were to occur, they may be liable for the individual’s injury. In certain circumstances, this liability can even extend to a trespasser with no right to be on your land or property. In short, it is always the less risky option to make minor modifications to warn or protect all individuals against dangerous or defective conditions.
What Precautions does Pennsylvania Law Require a Home or Property Owner to Take?
Premises liability law is a fact-sensitive area where minor differences in circumstances can have major impacts on a case’s likely outcome. In Pennsylvania, as in many other states, the level of the duty of care owed is determined by the individual’s status on the property. That is before any determinations can be made regarding your case, your attorney must know:
- The reason the individual was on the property.
- If the individual was granted express or implied permission to be on the property.
- The type of dangerous condition.
- If trespass is alleged, the age of the trespasser and the condition present.
From these initial determinations, your attorney can then begin to sort out issues of duty of care and liability. Generally speaking, an individual can be classified in one of three categories. These are:
- Licensee – A licensee is a person who is explicitly or implicitly granted the right or permission to be on the property. For licensees, a landowner must warn his or her guests of known dangerous conditions. However, while the landowner may not be willfully blind by intentionally turning a blind eye to dangerous conditions, they are generally not under an obligation to undertake additional or unreasonable inspections.
- Invitee – Invitees can actually be divided into two sub-categories: an invitee for public purposes and invitees for business purposes. For invitees, Pennsylvania property owners must typically undertake a reasonable inspection of the land and property under his or her control. If and when defective or dangerous conditions are uncovered, the individual must protect or warn the invitee of the condition.
- Trespasser – In Pennsylvania, the default rule for trespassers is that no duty is owed. However, there are two exceptions to this general rule. First, the land or property owner may not intentionally harm the trespasser. Second, when the trespasser is a child, certain artificial conditions, like a swimming pool, can trigger a duty of reasonable care.
What are Typical Premises Liability Disputes?
Premises liability suits can arise in a myriad of circumstances and situations. However, there are certain types of actions that are particularly common. Some typical premises liability actions include:
- Swimming pool accidents – Swimming pools are often associated with carefree summer fun, but horseplay, recklessness or carelessness can turn a day in the pool into a tragic one. Further pools are often associated with attracting trespassing children who may not be strong swimmers.
- Negligent security – When a company or person fails to provide adequate security for areas under their control and injury occurs, a negligent security claim may be appropriate.
- Slip and fall – Slip and falls are perhaps the most common and archetypical premises liability case. A slip or trip and fall can occur in a variety of circumstances including on a sidewalk or at a retail store.
- Parking lot liability – If a commercial landowner fails to provide a safe means of ingress or egress of the parking area or fails to take reasonable action to secure the parking lot, liability may attach. Similarly, failure to provide sufficient lighting in the parking area may also give rise to a claim for damages.
Premises liability actions can arise in many other ways, but an experienced attorney should be able to grasp and explain how the law applies to your particular situation.
For more than 34 years the attorneys of Reiff & Bily have protected those injured due to carelessness or negligence. For your free premises liability consultation call (215) 274-0072 or contact us online.