Premises Liability law is the body of law which makes the person who is in possession of land or premises responsible for certain injuries, whether they are physical, mental or social, suffered by persons who are present on the owner's property. Premises liability cases may seem simple, such as "slip and fall" cases, yet in some states the current laws favor the property owner to a much larger degree. Due to this, in assessing a Premises Liability case, it is often more astute to consult with an experienced Premises Liability attorney. A premises owner faced with a lawsuit should always file a claim with his insurance carrier.
Premises Liability cases may involve injuries or property loss due to several other factors. These may include negligence, property defects, fire, and even explosions. Animal attacks also fall into the category of premises liability. Asbestos cases are also on the rise, catching the nation's attention. These may fall into either the areas of premises liability or product liability cases. A particular type of cancer called mesothelioma is linked to exposure to asbestos in building materials as well as other materials, including brake linings.
Recently, another type of premises liability has evolved pertaining to security at shopping malls, hotels, subway stations and other businesses. Using excessive force, or not enough security force and/or efforts by the force have been the cause for many premises liability cases. Many courts have ruled that security for these facilities is not the sole responsibility of the police departments.
Contact a Iowa premise liability lawyer representing clients in Waterloo, Iowa today to schedule your free initial consultation.
Types of Premises Liability
Premises liability cases involve accidents happening on someone else's property. In premise liability, property owners and businesses have a duty to provide a safe environment for individuals. Some common types of premise liability cases involve accidents for uneven floor surfaces, slippery surfaces, broken sidewalks, broken steps, uneven elevators, libel and slander, false arrest, landlord/owner responsibilities and criminal acts of third parties. Besides the common slip and fall accident, there are numerous other premises liability accidents which one must be aware.
Premises liability involves the property owner's responsibility when a person is injured on public and private properties including homes, public sidewalks, stores and restaurants. Property owners may be liable when their actions or neglect result in injury, wrongful death or damage to another person or property. Injuries range from a fall after tripping on a defective sidewalk to attack by domestic animals. Property damage could be caused by construction. At issue is whether the property owner exercised "reasonable care" to maintain safe premises. Property owners failing to do so are "at-fault" and could be ordered by the court to pay the injured person's medical costs and other expenses. Property owners' responsibility for safe premises varies by state. So does the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Property owners need to take extra measures when they know they have possible hazards, such as chemicals for the lawn and garden or an over-protective dog. Even if warning signs are posted, and neighbors and others invited onto your property know of the possible dangers, the property owner may be held liable if an accident occurs.
A claimant is entitled to punitive damages in cases where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the owner's actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, oppression or entire want of care which would raise the presumption of intentional indifference to the outcome. An owner can be held liable for punitive damages arising from his own acts or from those of his employees in the scope of their employment. The issue of punitive damages will generally be presented to a jury in cases of malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and false arrest. A punitive damages award is limited to $250,000 in many states. The exceptions to this limit include cases where the employee or owner acted with the specific intent to cause harm, acted under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or were intentionally under the influence of sniffing glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to the degree that his or her judgment was substantially impaired.
Children are almost magically drawn to certain man-made hazards such as machinery and railroad turntables. Due to this, courts have created a legal fiction known as the attractive nuisance doctrine in order to force an owner to protect children from their own curiosity. The owner should anticipate that children could come onto the property simply because of the interesting nature of the machinery and take precautions, such as erecting a fence or other barrier to keep children and others away from the possible dangers.
An owner of land is liable for physical harm caused by an artificial condition upon the land if:
- The place where the condition exists is one upon which the owner knows or has reason to know that children are likely to trespass
- The condition is one of which the owner knows or has reason to know and which he realizes or should realize will involve an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily injury to others, including children
- The children because of their youth do not discover the condition or realize the risk involved in intermeddling with it or in coming within the area made dangerous by it
- The utility to the owner of maintaining the condition and the burden of eliminating the danger are slight as compared with the risk to children involved
- The owner fails to exercise reasonable care to eliminate the danger or otherwise to protect the children.
There must be evidence to support all five of these conditions, or the owner is entitled to summary judgment. This attractive nuisance doctrine does not apply to a child who is an invited guest on the owner's property.
The property owner's duty toward the care children that may be on their property is greater than their duty owed to adults. Even if the trespasser is a child or another that participate in dangerous behavior, the property owner must still take precautions to prevent foreseeable harm. A classic example of a property owner's greater duty of care to children arises in the context of backyard swimming pools, both in-ground and above-ground. Owners must protect their pools by using fences, gates, and locks to keep children from harm. They will be found liable for injuries to children, even trespassing children, and those that were warned to stay off the property if they fail to do so.