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Hurt in a Slip and Fall? Learn More About Your Options Under Premises Liability Law

| May 29, 2020

Suppose that you are out shopping one day when your feet suddenly come out from under you and you fall, which results in many thousands of dollars in medical bills. It turns out that the reason for your fall was a pool of water from a leak in the store’s roof that had been standing on the floor for several hours before your accident. Do you have any recourse against the store for your damages? The answer is yes.

Below, we’ll examine the duties that landowners owe to visitors on their property and how different standards of care apply to different categories of visitors.

Landowners Owe Visitors a Duty to Prevent Injury

Generally, all landowners owe visitors upon their property the duty to keep the visitors safe from injury due to unreasonably dangerous conditions, which is known as “premises liability.” However, premises liability law does not treat all visitors equally. Maryland courts apply common law when determining the duty landowners owe to certain types of entrants on their property, which splits all entrants into three broad categories:

Invitees

An invitee is a person who is invited onto the property by the owner for a business purpose. This includes members of the public who are implicitly invited onto a landowner’s property (e.g., retail customers and hotel guests), as well as individuals who are invited for private business purposes (e.g., employees and independent contractors). Landowners owe invitees a very high duty of care in that they must use reasonable and ordinary care to keep the premises safe and protect the invitees from injury caused by unreasonable risks about which the landowner knows or could have discovered. This means that the landowner must proactively inspect the property and correct any unreasonably dangerous conditions or warn invitees of their presence.

Licensees

A licensee is a person who enters a landowner’s property with the landowner’s knowledge and consent but is present for his or her own benefit. Licensees are further divided into licensees by invitation (e.g., social guests), and bare licensees (e.g., door-to-door salesmen whom the landowner temporarily invites inside). Landowners owe licensees by invitation the duty to warn of any dangerous conditions about which they know, but are not required to proactively inspect their property to discover dangerous conditions. To bare licensees, landowners owe the duty only to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring them.

Trespassers

A trespasser is a person who is on the landowner’s property without the landowner’s knowledge or permission. In most cases, landowners are required merely to refrain from intentionally harming trespassers (i.e., by setting booby traps).

Common Premises Liability Scenarios

  • Slips and falls: Slips and falls are among the most common types of premises liability claims. In the example from above, the store likely would be liable for your injuries because (1) the store knew the roof was leaking and water was likely to pool on the floor, (2) the water remained on the floor for such a length of time that a reasonable employee should have noticed and corrected it, and (3) the store did not warn that the floor might be slippery.
  • Swimming pool accidents: Landowners can also be held liable for injuries arising from swimming pool accidents, especially if the accident involves children, even if the children are trespassers.
  • Negligent security: Store owners can be held liable for injuries to their customers arising from criminal acts committed on their property if the plaintiff can show that a pattern of criminal activity existed and that the store failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it.

Contact a Waldorf Accident Law Firm

Have you been injured by a slip and fall or any other accident on someone else’s property? If so, you may be entitled to pursue a premises liability claim against the landowner. For more information about landowner liability, contact the Waldorf accident lawyers at the Law Office of Thomas E. Pyles by calling 301-705-5006.