Generally, title to a property indicates the right to possession and control. Since possession of land does not require an actual title or ownership, the possessor of land can be one who occupies a property with the intent to control the land[i]. The key factor determining the liability of an owner for acts occurring on his/her property is the actual exercise of the rights to possession and control.
Since the title of a land does not serve as a determinative factor in determining the possession with intent to control land, an owner of a premise does not incur liability for accidents upon his/her premises. The mere fact that the plaintiff is the owner of a real property does not render him/her liable for injuries sustained by persons who have entered upon the premises[ii]. Hence, a real property’s owner is not an insurer of the safety of such persons, even though s/he has invited them to enter the premises[iii].
However, an owner of a property having control over its premises will incur liability for damages caused to persons who have entered upon his/her premises. Such liability will continue even after conveyance of such property to another person, if control of such property is retained with the owner.
Likewise, in actions against injury allegedly caused by some defect, condition, or act in or on a property, the responsibility for paying damages would fall upon the person in whom title is vested, unless the statute provides otherwise.
Generally, a property owner’s liability towards an invitee for injuries not intentionally inflicted is based upon negligence. However, the mere fact that the injury was sustained while the injured was upon the premises rightfully would not make the owner negligent[iv].
[i] Quadrino v. Bar Harbor Banking & Trust Co., 588 A.2d 303 (Me. 1991).
[ii] Beccue v. Rockford Park Dist., 94 Ill. App. 2d 179 (Ill. App. Ct. 2d Dist. 1968).
[iii] Niblett v. Pennsylvania R. Co., 158 A.2d 580, 581 (Del. Super. Ct. 1960).
[iv] Starberg v. Olbekson, 169 Ore. 369 (Or. 1940).