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 are invitees. 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.