What Is a Property Owner’s Responsibility in Preventing Slip and Fall Accidents?
Premises liability law imposes a duty on a property owner to act in a reasonable manner to discover and remedy dangerous hidden conditions that could cause harm to someone who lawfully enters the property. Let’s break that sentence down.
- Reasonable — A property owner is only responsible for accidents that happen because he is unreasonable, which generally means he has failed to act the way a regular, conscientious landowner would. Plaintiffs must present evidence a landlord or his employees have been careless, lazy, slow to respond, indifferent or otherwise derelict in their duty.
- Discover — A landlord has a duty to look for problems and must have a system in place for discovering foreseeable problems, such as spills on the floor, as they arise. A landlord cannot plead ignorance about the existence of a dangerous condition if a reasonably prudent landlord would have noticed the problem in the course of normal inspections.
- Remedy — There are two major ways a landlord can remedy a dangerous condition: warning or removal. Warnings are generally sufficient if they would get the attention of a reasonably alert visitor and if the cost of removing the condition is too burdensome. A remedy must be provided in a timely manner starting at the point the landlord knew or should have known about the hidden hazard.
- Dangerous — A condition is dangerous if it is likely to cause harm. Water on a floor or potholes in pavement are dangerous. A staircase is not necessarily dangerous just because someone fell on it.
- Hidden — Landlords are generally not responsible for “open and obvious” hazards, because a reasonable person would have notice of the danger. A visitor therefore assumes the risk of encountering an obvious hazard. But there are two noteworthy exceptions. A landlord may be liable for an open and obvious hazard if a visitor had no way around it. A landlord is also responsible for an obvious condition that acts as an “attractive nuisance,” if it lures children onto the property and they are subsequently injured.
- Causation — The fact that a condition is dangerous and hidden causes a visitor to be injured.
- Lawfully on the property — A landlord owes a duty of care to invited guests, clients, customers, and licensees, such as letter carriers and meter readers, who have a right to enter the property. But the landlord has a very limited duty to protect trespassers. As mentioned above, the law is protective of child trespassers, but adult trespassers can’t very well sue for a slip and fall if they were using a neighbor’s swimming pool without permission.
Slip and fall injury cases required a great deal of proof and should only be entrusted to an experienced attorney with a track record of success in this area of the law.
If you have been injured due to a slip and fall, our personal injury lawyers can help. Call Rudberg Law Offices, LLC at 412-488-6000 or contact our Pittsburgh office online to schedule a free consultation.