Slip and fall injuries are one of the most common types of premises liability cases. Commercial landlords must keep their properties safe, as they may have hundreds or even thousands of people visiting their properties every week. Hazards like slippery floors, falling boxes, and uneven steps can be major liabilities for owners. In Virginia, as in most regions, the landlord bears the brunt of the responsibility for exercising reasonable care for the properties they own.
There are different levels of responsibilities property owners owe to people who may visit their property. Visitors are classified as Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers.
Invitees Are the Most Common Visitors
Invitees are any individuals who have a reason to visit a property for a business purpose. The customers at Target would be considered invitees. Individuals at a retail store who are interviewing for a job would also fall under this classification. Guests at hotels and paying clients would additionally fall under this designation.
Property owners must make sure their property is free of potential pitfalls and hazards. They have the duty to discover, inspect, and correct any issue which may cause harm to an invitee. Property owners must make sure their properties are reasonably safe. The term “reasonable” is defined by law as what the average individual of regular judgment and intelligence would do in similar situations. In premises liability cases that go to trial, the jury ultimately decides if the circumstances in the case were handled in a reasonable manner.
Licensees Do Not Provide Financial Gain to the Owner
Licensees, like invitees, are legally permitted to be on the property, but owners are not expecting financial gains from licensees. Contractors who are there for maintenance work fall in this category. Visitors invited by friends, or guests at a party are other examples of licensees.
The level of care expected of a property owner to a licensee is not as high as an invitee because there are not any financial benefits to the business in this relationship. Owners must still provide safe conditions for the “licensee”, but regular inspections are not expected for visitors fitting the description of this classification.
Trespasser Are Not Afforded the Same Level of Care
People who do not have permission to be on the property are classified as trespassers and do not have any protection from the property owner.
At the same time, owners cannot injure an individual just because they are trespassing on his property. If the owner knows teens are trespassing on the company, they cannot place nails in the parking lot to cause a flat tire on a teen’s vehicle. Owners must post signs if there is a dangerous condition on their property. Even a trespasser could legally sue the property owner if he fails to notify the public about the dangerous conditions.
Inspections and Safety
As a property owner, you are expected to make a reasonable effort to keep your property safe for visitors. Regular inspections are the key to reducing your liability in a premises liability case.
If you or someone you know has been injured on a commercial property, call Epperly & Follis, P.C. today at 804-648-6480 to schedule your free consultation.