Premises liability means a landowner’s liability for certain torts that take place on an immovable property. Premises liability law refers to the set of laws that make an owner or possessor of land or premises responsible for certain injuries suffered by persons who are present on the premises. Here the person who owns the land is called an owner or possessor, and those who enter into the premises of another is called a visitor. Visitors can be classified into invitees, licensees, or trespassers.
The duty of care owed by an owner varies depending upon the visitor’s status. A property owner or possessor must owe the same or similar duty of care to both invitees and licensees. While in the case of a trespasser s/he needs to owe only a lowest duty of care, because an owner or possessor does not owe a duty to warn a trespasser about dangers naturally occurring on the premises. However, if an owner or possessor is aware of a trespasser’s presence, then a duty to warn such trespasser of dangerous conditions on the property arises upon the owner or possessor.
Injuries suffered by visitors on premises are generally referred as ‘slip and fall’ injuries. Injuries although accidental will make an owner or possessor liable for the damages caused by accidents.
Generally, the liability of an owner or possessor depends upon the following factors:
- the visitor’s status; and
- the fact regarding whether the injury could have been prevented by an owner or possessor.
Therefore, in order to impose premises liability the following conditions must be satisfied:
- that the defendant must possess the land or premises;
- that the plaintiff should be an invitee or a licensee; and
- that there was a negligence or wrongful act from the side of the defendant.
However, in recent years, premises liability law includes injury caused by third persons within the scope of an owner’s or possessor’s liability. Therefore, a property owner or possessor is made directly or vicariously liable for injuries not caused by an owner or possessor.
The liability of an owner or possessor extends not only to those entering a home, business, or surrounding area but also to those accessing the public sidewalks in front of the property.