Premises Liability

$1,007,000 verdict for client who suffered spinal
injuries due to carelessness of restaurant.

Owners are required to maintain safe conditions that protect guests, business patrons, and others from exposure to hidden dangers on the property. The law of premises liability is complex, sometimes inconsistent, and fraught with exceptions. Claims for injury resulting from hidden hazards in a store, house, or lot are subject to property owners’ obligations as they exist in four separate categories. Those categories and the duties imposed with respect to each are as follows:

1) Residential landlord’s duties to their tenants:
Our legislature has enacted laws to regulate the relationship between the landlord and his tenant. In order to be held accountable, the landlord must be shown to have known about or alerted to the danger. As a general rule, landlords must obey all building codes and keep common areas of the property (all but the interior of the rented unit) in a safe condition. As to interiors of rental units, he must provide and maintain safe furnaces, heaters, wiring, plumbing, and mechanicals with repairs done in a good, workmanlike manner. Some of the most common causes of compensable injury on rented property include unsafe stairs, insecure or missing stair handrails, improperly installed and falling cabinets, concealed holes in lawn or paved surfaces, and slippery surfaces caused by the landlord’s knowing failure to repair clogged drains or gutter leaks.

2) Duty of business owner to customers:
An owner or occupier of a commercial property has a duty to his patrons to either cure the property of a known concealed hazard or adequately warn the customer of the danger so it can be avoided. The key words are “known” and “concealed.” Typically, claims are defended by claiming the hazard was not “known” and was likely created by a customer rather than a store employee, or that it was not “concealed” (i.e. it was “open and obvious” had the customer just looked where she was going). The availability of these common defenses means that store risk managers and claims adjusters routinely deny responsibility for claims by customers injured on their premises. Rather than allow the merit of your claim to be determined by a claims adjuster (who has a vested economic interest in denying the claim), consult without charge a lawyer knowledgeable in the law of premises liability.

3) Duty of property owners to persons on the property for the visitors sole benefit:
Where the injured party came on the property with the permission or acquiescence of the owner, but the visit is of no benefit to the owner, then the property owes no duty to the visitor except to refrain from willfully injuring the visitor and to warn of any concealed pitfall, danger, or obstruction.

4) Duty of property owner to trespassers:
The short answer is there is no duty except to avoid intentional injury.

5) Some exceptions to the above general rules:
There are two major exceptions: A) Ohio recently adopted the doctrine of “attractive nuisance,” recognizing that children are not readily cognizant of whether they are a guest or trespasser. As a result, certain hazards or dangers such as unattended swimming pools or heavy equipment parked overnight on an empty lot readily attract the adventuresome activity of children who may not fully appreciate the risks. B) Ohio has a statute which insulates property owners from liability for hazards or hazardous conduct on property held open to the public, without charge, for recreational use.