Premises Liability

Land owners and possessors of land, such as lessees, renters, and contractors, have a legal duty to people who enter the premises over which they have control. The injuries in these cases are caused by a defective or dangerous condition on the land. These cases are sometimes called slip and fall cases; however, many premises liability cases don’t involve a slip and fall. Premises liability cases can arise from any number of dangerous conditions, such as inadequate security at a business, improper ground of electrical devices, and other defects on the land or fixtures.

In order for this duty to exist, the owner or occupier must have possession or control of the premises at the time an entrant is injured.

Invitees, Licensees & Trespassers

The standard of care owed to an entrant upon land under the possession or control of another is determined by the status of the person entering upon the land, whether that be as an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser.

Invitees enter the land with consent from the possessor and with the possessor’s expectation of a material benefit from the visit. When a possessor invites a person onto the premises for a business purpose, either directly or indirectly, the person being invited upon the land is classified as an invitee. People who enter premises for a business related purpose, or as customers, are classified by the law as invitees.

Licensees are people who enter premises with permission but without an expectation of a material benefit from the visit. People who have permission to enter the premises but are not conducting business on the premises are classified as licensees.

Trespassers are persons who enter premises without permission of the owner or possessor of the land. People who are not lawfully on the land are classified as trespassers.

Determining Who Is at Fault in a Premises Liability Claim

The law imposes different legal duties on the owner or possessor of the land depending on the person classification as an invitee, licensee or trespasser. Generally there is a greater duty to invitees, a somewhat lesser duty to licensees and no duty to protect trespassers.

For an invitee who is injured to establish liability of the possessor of land, the invitee has the burden to prove the following:

  • A dangerous condition existed on the premises.
  • The possessor of the land knew or should have known through ordinary care of the existence of the dangerous condition.
  • The possessor did not remove, remedy, or warn the invitee of the danger.
  • The invitee was injured as a result of possessor’s failures.

The mere fact that an injury occurred to an invitee does not automatically mean the possessor of land is liable. If the conduct causing injury to the invitee was the conduct of someone else on the premises, the possessor of land may not be liable for that third party’s actions.

Possessors of Land

Possessors of land are generally liable for defects on their property, unless the possessor had no actual knowledge of the dangerous condition, or the danger of the condition was not reasonably foreseeable by a prudent person upon examination or inspection. The possessor of the land must inspect the premises to ascertain potentially dangerous conditions.

For a licensee who is injured to establish liability of the possessor of land, the invitee has the burden to prove the following:

  • A dangerous condition existed on the land
  • The possessor had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition
  • The injured party did not know of the condition
  • The possessor knew that people would be unaware of or not likely to discover the condition

Who Is the Possessor of the Land?

The owner of the land is a possessor, but other people can possess the land. For example, when a contractor takes over the possession of land while performing work for the owner, the contractor may owe the person entering the land a duty to protect them from injury. However, where the landowner has only given over partial control of the land, the landowner may still have a duty and be held liable for injuries occurring on the premises. When a possessor of land other than the landowner has control over the premises, a land owner is generally not liable. For example, a contractor in control of the premises will be responsible for injuries on the premises if a duty is violated. An exception to this rule is where the activity on the land involves an inherently dangerous activity.

Call 800-264-3455 today to get in touch with a Columbia premises liability lawyer.

Hotels & Motel Liability

Possessors of hotels and motels, also known as innkeepers, have a higher duty to their business invitees. The relationship between innkeeper and guest impose affirmative duties on the innkeeper and the protection of the guest and their property. This duty encompasses more than the duty owed by the owner of the business premises to invitees.

The Supreme Court of Missouri held that this duty is owed to those who come for food and drink as well as those who take rooms, and that extends to patrons of separately owned and operated eating establishments where the restaurants are an integral part of the hotel operation and are accessible through the hotel lobby.

An innkeeper may be liable to guests for injuries to guests if:

  • There is a dangerous condition on the premises.
  • The innkeeper knew or should have known of the defect.
  • The innkeeper, in the exercise of ordinary care, should have repaired the defect.
  • The plaintiff sustained an injury as a result of the defect.

The innkeeper must exercise care to protect guests from defects in premises that are used in common by all guests, as well as defects that exist in the room actually occupied by the guest. An innkeeper has a duty to inspect the premises for defects, and a failure to do so may give rise to liability.

Let Our Columbia Injury Attorneys Know How We Can Help

If you or a loved one have been harmed or believe you may have been harmed by defective or dangerous conditions on the premises of a possessor or innkeeper, contact an experienced Moberly premises liability attorney at the law firm of Gump & Faiella, LLC for a free initial consultation.

Schedule a Free Consultation

FAQ: Premises Liability

Premises liability — what is it?

Premises liability law puts responsibility on a property owner for some injuries suffered by other people on his property. It can include situations where individuals are in the owner’s home, on the owner’s property, or while a person is at another’s place of business.

How can a property owner be responsible for injuries occurring to individuals while they are on his/her premises?

As a general rule, a property owner is responsible for injuries on his/her property if he/she has been negligent. The property owner is negligent if he/she has breached a duty of care owed by him/her to the injured person. For example, an owner of a pizza restaurant has a duty to keep the floor dry and free of slippery debris (or at least post a warning to people regarding a certain floor condition) so that customers are prevented from slipping or injuring themselves. Similarly, an automobile service station has an obligation and duty to ensure that customers can safely enter and exit the service station.
An owner of property may have a different duty of care to different classes of people on his property. For example, a business owner is more responsible to a customer invited by the owner onto the property, than a homeowner is to a trespasser. A property owner’s duty of care therefore depends on the status of the person entering onto the property. The owner generally owes the highest duty of care to a business invitee (a customer) and the lowest duty of care to a trespasser.

What will your firm do to determine whether to file a premises liability lawsuit?

As with other kinds of lawsuits, we will start with an initial interview to determine the facts as you know them and at that time make a preliminary judgment about whether the case is one which falls within our expertise and interest. We need to establish whether or not we would be able, on your behalf, to prove the following:

That the property owner was negligent (i.e., that the owner breached a legal duty owed to the injured person);
That the property owner’s acts of negligence caused your injuries and damages (if there is causation) and
That there are substantial damages which justify pursuing your case.
What do you mean by causation?
Causation is the connection between the negligent act or acts of the property owner and the injuries and damages incurred. For example, the property owner may claim that your injuries and damages were not in any way caused by the property owner’s negligence.

What damages am I able to obtain in a premises liability case?

As a general rule, the injured person is entitled to be reasonably compensated for all the injuries and losses incurred as a result of the incident in question. As with other types of claims, damages are often divided into two categories: non-economic and economic damages.

What are non-economic damages?

Non-economic damages are those losses which are not quantifiable in a specific dollar amount. Common examples are pain and suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, physical impairments or disability, disfigurement and loss of enjoyment of life.

What are economic damages?

Economic damages include almost everything that can be replaced by payment. The category is very broad and varies on a case by case basis. Economic damages include but are not limited to the reasonable expenses of medical care, hospitalization, treatment, loss of income, loss of earning capacity, the reasonable value of services provided by family members, the cost of hiring others to perform normal household duties and the loss of the injured person’s services to his/her spouse.

Are punitive damages available in a premises liability case?

Punitive damages are permitted because they punish the defendant and help prevent others from engaging in similar conduct. Usually, it is necessary to prove misconduct beyond just ordinary negligence in order to obtain punitive damages. It would be necessary to prove that the defendant acted in a wanton or intentional way, showing a complete and reckless disregard of a known danger to a person’s health and safety. The level of behavior required to obtain punitive damages is very often difficult to prove because there can be such a severe penalty.

Is an expert witness necessary to prove a premises liability case?

Sometimes it is necessary to hire an expert with special knowledge so that he/she can educate the jury about matters not commonly understood by the general public. For example, an expert may be required to explain to a jury why a parking lot is designed in a manner which can cause injury, or an expert may be needed to explain how a building fails to comply with relevant building codes and local ordinances. In addition to these experts, medical experts and economists can also assist in explaining matters to the jury that they would not ordinarily fully understand.

Can a property owner be held liable for criminal acts which occur on his/her property?

Generally, if the property owner knew or had a reason to know that an attack by a criminal was likely, the property owner can, in certain circumstances, be liable for criminal acts committed against a person on his/her property. For example, a significant period of criminal activity on or around a property that would put a reasonable property owner on notice that certain measures were necessary to protect people on the property could be used to prove an owner’s liability for later criminal acts. If a property owner knows that someone has placed an illegal animal trap on his property and the owner fails to do anything about the trap, he/she might be liable for injuries inflicted on someone else as a result of the trap.

How do I know that you will do a good job on my case?

We have an ongoing commitment to obtain the very best result possible in every case we decide to pursue. It is not possible to guarantee a particular result in a case, as every case is different. The firm has several experienced Columbia trial attorneys and has significant strength and depth of experience within our supporting paralegal and legal assistant staff, the combination of which allows our firm to give an unparalleled service to our clients.