Some people have an inherent distrust of personal injury law. They look
at incidents like a slip and fall case and roll their eyes. You hear them
say things like, “If someone slips on ice, they’re just being
clumsy. Why is a business responsible for that?” Skepticism aside,
these detractors raise an interesting question. If people naturally slip
on ice, rain puddles, or other natural hazards in a parking lot, why is
a business held responsible?
People who visit a property are legally classified in various ways.
A customer’s legal classification grants them extra protection. This is why businesses are often held responsible for their customer’s injuries.
When a customer enters a business property, they are an “invitee.” They could be there to make a specific purchase; they could be there with
a general idea of what they want; or they could be just browsing.
Their intent to spend money or not is irrelevant. If someone is at a place of business, and they do not work there, they
Property owners and business managers are expected to provide the utmost
care to their invitees. But why? What makes an invitee so special?
Imagine a comic book store, and consider the reason why everyone is present
at this location. The owner bought, built, or rented a space for the specific
purpose of bringing in customers. They did not invest in this store out
of altruism. They want to make money, and customers are the only way for
that to happen.
Customers are the very reason for this property’s existence. That is why, in the eyes of the law, invitees are protected at a business.
When someone enters a private residence, they are a “licensee.” Private property owners have far less responsibility for the safety of
their visitors. They cannot, however, be grossly negligent. They must
warn their visitors of any unexpected dangers on their property. Beyond
that, they don’t need “wet floor” signs or any of the
extra precautions you would see at a business.
Visitors are not the ostensible purpose of a private residence, so owners
are not responsible to take extra care of them. The property exists primarily for the owner’s use. Any visitors are
given “license” to use the property at the owner’s discretion.
This is unlike a business, which is open to the general public.
Even trespassers are granted protections under the law. It may be stretching
the definition of the word to call them “visitors.” They have
no “invitation” or “license” to be where they
are. Even so,
trespassers still have a reasonable expectation of safety. In legal terms, this essentially means that you cannot leave traps for
trespassers. You could, theoretically, leave mouse traps all over the
floor for an intruder, but you must warn them in advance. You need a clear,
visible warning that you have booby-trapped your property.
It is “unreasonable” for an intruder to be on the lookout for
traps, therefore doing so is illegal.
The “attractive nuisance” doctrine grants extra protections
to trespassing children. This legal standard operates with the assumption
that children cannot always comprehend the consequences of their actions.
When your property has items that look fun and inviting, children may wander
onto the premises. If they hurt themselves, you could be held responsible. What is or isn’t an attractive nuisance is subjective, and the law
expects you to use your common sense. Swimming pools, abandoned cars,
trampolines, and the like will probably tempt children onto your land.
As the property owner, you are responsible for erecting sound barriers
between attractive, dangerous items and the outside world.
If you’ve been hurt on business property, contact our office today.
We can review your case. If your injuries are the result of a business’s
negligence, we may be able to help you seek compensation.
Reach out online, our call our office at (817) 591-4222.