Interviewer: When you work with premises liability cases, what are some things that you’re looking for?
Daniel Hoarfrost: In premises liability cases there are certain kinds of well developed, historical, legal qualifications to be able to bring a claim. But the most common one is bringing a claim against a commercial entity like a store.
The Owner of a Business Has a Duty to Keep the Premises Reasonably Safe for Individuals Invited on the Property for Business Purposes
Because people who are on those premises, usually shoppers, are invited there for a business purpose and so the owner of the premises has a duty to keep the premises reasonably safe.
The biggest problem that you run into on premises liability cases is that you have to establish that whatever circumstance was there that caused the injury, for example, a puddle of liquid or water on the floor, was there long enough that the owner or the owner’s employees had an opportunity to realize that there was a problem.
It Is Necessary to Establish the Owner or the Owner’s Employees Negligence to Provide a Safe Environment
And they failed to take action to clean it up and make the premises safe or reasonably safe. That’s usually where the battle takes place in premises liability cases. The attorney has to establish that the owner had reasonable notice and opportunity to cure.
Once you get over that hurdle, the injury that occurs is the damage portion of it is basically the same as any other injury claim. You’re entitled to the full extent of damages that relate to the incident that causes the claim.
Falls Are Commonly Sustained by Individuals in a Premises Liability Case
Interviewer: Are slip and fall cases tied into premises liability cases? What are the most common injuries occurring in those kinds of cases?
Daniel Hoarfrost: Slip and falls are by far the most common. They’re the ones that you hear about most often and they’re also the most difficult to prove. Because of the problem of having to establish that the substance that caused the slip was there long enough that the property owner should have identified it and should have taken action to clean it up.
Premises Liability Can Occur on the Inside and the Outside of a Premises
Premises liability can occur on the grounds near the premise as well. There may be something dangerous about the outside structure or there is an uncovered hole in the yard or an unsafe railing that makes the premise itself inherently dangerous. These deficiencies give rise to a claim if an injury occurs because of it.
Interviewer: What sort of locations and what kind of jobs are these where these liability cases are occurring? Are they warehouses or factories or restaurants?
Employee Injuries Are Typically Workers’ Compensation Cases
Daniel Hoarfrost: Any of the above, although warehouses and factories tend to be on the job- related injuries. Those are restricted to workers compensation claims unless you can establish that there’s a third party, someone who is unrelated to the employer, who brought about the accident.
But more often than not it takes place in a store or possibly a private home. There are injury claims that arise out of landlord tenant relationships and include any number of variations on the theme.
Landlords and Premises Liability Cases
Interviewer: What situation would comprise a landlord-tenant kind of case?
Daniel Hoarfrost: The most common situation would be something like a loose railing on a stairway or on a deck. Somebody lost their balance and fell because of it and sustained an injury. There is what we call the common law obligation to keep the premises safe when you are a landlord.
But there are specific statutory requirements to maintain the premises in a habitable condition. This is so the liability aspect of it is particularly clear and it’s a question of establishing what injury occurred because of it.