The Issue of Premises Responsibility

You may have a case under premises liability. Under this theory, the owner or possessor of a property can be held liable for any injury or damage suffered by another person on that property. Liability is determined based on the reasonableness of the owners’ actions in light of the foresee ability of the injury. When making this determination, the courts look at a variety of factors including the expected use of the premises; the reasonableness of the inspection, repair, and warning; and the burden on the owner to provide adequate protection. Possessors of land and buildings owe duties to all who enter their property.

The extent of liability will depend on the nature of the injured victim – licensee, trespasser or invitee. An invitee may enter land as a business visitor or as a public invitee. Business visitors include customers and clients of businesses, drivers picking up and delivering goods, people seeking employment, independent contractors and their employees doing work on the premises, and others invited to do work. Invitees have a legal expectation that the property will be made safe for them. Owners must protect them not only from hazards that the owner knew about, but also from hazards that the owner could have discovered.

The Restatement (Second) of Torts, Sec. 344:

[The possessor of land] may . . . know or have reason to know, from past experience, that there is a likelihood of conduct on the part of third persons in general which is likely to endanger the safety of the visitor, even though he has no reason to expect it on the part of any particular individual. If the place or character of his business, or his past experience, is such that he should reasonably anticipate careless or criminal conduct on the part of third persons, either generally or at some particular time, he may be under a duty to take precautions against it, and to provide a reasonably sufficient number of servants to afford a reasonable protection

[2:865] Duty to maintain the safety of premises: Landowners and possessors of land owe a nondelegable duty to put and maintain the premises (including its buildings and structures) in reasonably safe condition. They are liable for an independent contractor’s negligence in performing that job “irrespective of whether the contractor’s negligence lies in his incompetence, carelessness, inattention or delay.” [Brown v. George Pepperdine Found. (1943) 23 C2d 256, 259–260, 143 P2d 929, 930 (internal quotes omitted) (nondelegable duty to maintain and repair building elevators); Koepnick v. Kashiwa Fudosan America, Inc. (2009) 173 CA4th 32, 36–39, 92 CR3d 453, 455–458 (same); Srithong v. Total Investment Co. (1994) 23 CA4th 721, 726, 28 CR2d 672, 674–675 (nondelegable duty to maintain and repair roof)]

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