Premises liability law dictates that property owners, landlords and business operators are responsible for the safety of residents, employees, customers and the general public present at their facilities, and they must eliminate hazardous conditions that jeopardize safety. If people are exposed to hazardous conditions, signs must be conspicuously displayed on the premises to warn about the possibility of danger. Failure to sufficiently upkeep property and failure to warn of hazardous conditions are grounds for premises liability lawsuits, and property owners are held liable for injuries resulting from negligent and inadequate maintenance. There are several sources of premises liability litigation. Grounds for a premises liability lawsuit may include:
Injuries attributable to a poorly designed or inadequately maintained building:
Property owners, landlords, architects and building inspectors may be held liable if the defective or deteriorating structure of a building precipitates an accident that results in serious injury. For example, if someone trips on a rickety flight of stairs due to protruding nails and unsteady decomposing wooden steps, the injured party may be able to file a premises liability claim. If a visitor is struck by a loose tile, beam or roof shingle that detaches from a dilapidated house, the property owner may be held accountable for failing to repair the ceiling and roofing materials to prevent injury. If an elderly, feeble patient recuperating from hip replacement surgery falls off a hospital bed that lacks guardrails and consequently fractures her other hip, the hospital might be held liable for violating building codes and safety regulations that mandate the installation of guardrails.
Injuries sustained in slip-and-fall accidents:
Victims of slip-and-fall accidents sometimes sustain injuries from tripping over dropped objects or precariously placed objects that obstruct their path. For instance, a grocery shopper might sustain injuries from tripping over an overturned crate of oranges in the produce section of the supermarket. Supermarket owners may be held liable if they were aware that the crate of oranges knocked over and failed to clear the scattered oranges from the floor. Other slip-and-fall injuries commonly result from sliding over wet, slippery surfaces or stumbling on rough, jagged terrain. For example, the owner of a coffee shop may be held liable if a customer slips on a puddle of spilled coffee that the store knew about and failed to mop up. The owners of a gymnasium may be held liable if athletes fall on recently polished and waxed gymnasium floors and the owners failed to display signs warning visitors to exercise caution and avoid running on slippery surfaces. Inadequate maintenance of sidewalks frequently poses a risk for slip-and-fall accidents, as sidewalks are especially prone to crumbling and deterioration during the wintertime when they become encrusted with snow and ice. Property owners may be held liable if pedestrians suffer slip-and-fall accidents due to insufficient shoveling and salting of walkways during the winter.
Injuries sustained in pool accidents:
Severe injuries and drowning deaths can result from the absence of effective barriers that block passage to a pool. Pool owners may be held liable for failing to encase all sides of a pool with sturdy and impenetrable fences that are at least four feet high and insurmountable by young children. Pool owners are also responsible for installing gates with childproof locks elevated beyond the grasp of a young child, and they must properly fasten pool covers over the water when swim time has ended. Drowning deaths due to negligent supervision may also be grounds for premises liability lawsuits. Owners of a pool club, day camp or vacation resort may be held liable if a drowning death occurs because management failed to train lifeguards to monitor swimmers. If injury or death results from the flawed design or inadequate maintenance of a pool, the victim might be eligible to file a premises liability lawsuit. For example, a young toddler may gain entry to a pool if the wooden fence enclosing the pool area has missing slats or openings due to deterioration. If the child drowns due to the negligent upkeep of the fence that should have prevented entrance to the pool, his family may be able to file a premises liability claim. Poorly demarcated shallow and deep ends of a pool can also have tragic consequences and be grounds for premises liability litigation. Death can result if a young child who cannot tread water mistakenly crosses into deeper territory that is incorrectly labelled. The use of misplaced or defective diving boards can also have catastrophic consequences; spinal cord and brain injuries may result if a swimmer dives into a shallower region of a pool.
Dogs are capable of inflicting wounds that range in severity from faint scratches, bruised tissue and tender scars to muscle tears, bone fractures, disfigurement, organ damage and infection. According to the legal principle of strict liability, dog owners in New Jersey are held fully accountable for all injuries inflicted by their pets, regardless of whether their dogs had a previous history of aggressive behavior and regardless of whether their dogs instigated the attack. Other states institute “one bite” laws, which dictate that a single dog bite is permissible before a dog is deemed “vicious” and before owners can be held responsible for subsequent episodes of biting. However, the first dog bite is not free of penalty in New Jersey, so dog bite victims in this state have increased chances to obtain compensation for their injuries. In order to successfully file a premises liability claim resulting from a dog bite, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant in the lawsuit is the dog’s owner, the plaintiff must provide sufficient evidence that he was indeed bitten by the dog and the plaintiff must prove that the dog biting incident took place in a public area or when the victim legally entered private property, such as the dog owner’s house or yard.
Harmful exposure to noxious fumes and toxic substances:
Property owners, landlords and building inspectors may be held liable if tenants or visitors face adverse health effects from inhaling or ingesting noxious fumes or other toxic substances emitted on the premises. Landlords may hire exterminators to eliminate mice or termite infestations in a building. However, if landlords fail to warn tenants to evacuate the premises during fumigation, and tenants consequently become ill from inhaling insecticides and toxic sprays, the injured party may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit. If landlords fail to address maintenance problems and work order requests, the injured party may be entitled to file a premises liability claim. If landlords and maintenance workers fail to investigate suspicious odors that are indicative of gas leaks, victims exposed to gaseous vapors may be entitled to file a premises liability lawsuit. Tenants who suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning because landlords failed to replace defective carbon monoxide detectors may be able to file a premises liability claim. Lead poisoning may be grounds for a premises liability lawsuit. Children who suffer from lead poisoning may experience decreased growth rates, developmental delays, auditory problems and cognitive impairments. If a child suffers from lead poisoning due to long-term exposure to lead paint that peels off a deteriorating building, property owners may be held liable for damages. Property owners may also be held liable if visitors acquire lead poisoning from drinking contaminated water circulating through lead plumbing or water fountains. Childcare providers may also be held liable for exposing young children to harmful quantities of lead; owners of a daycare center may be held liable if its facilities include old-fashioned, outdated playground equipment and antique toys that are manufactured with lead paint.
Injuries resulting from inadequate security:
If a property owner or a third party responsible for safety enforcement fails to institute security measures, the injured party may be entitled to file a premises liability lawsuit. For example, failure to install bright light fixtures to illuminate parking lots and garages constitutes inadequate security. Similarly, the absence of alarm systems, door latches, window locks and video surveillance cameras are grounds for premises liability lawsuits if criminals evade detection and encroach upon private territory to harm a building’s residents.
In order to successfully file a premises liability claim, the plaintiff must fulfill certain criteria. The plaintiff must provide sufficient evidence that he was injured after legally entering private property. Alternatively, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was aware that he entered the premises, but that the defendant did not request his departure. The plaintiff might be a guest who was directly invited to the defendant’s place of residence, or the plaintiff may be a worker, such as a mailman or gardener, with implicit permission to enter the premises to fulfill his job duties. Although unknown trespassers are not usually protected under premises liability law, property owners must ensure the safety of young children who may be lured onto their property by “attractive nuisances,” such as shiny cars and pools with colorful floats. The plaintiff must prove that the property owner was aware of a hazardous condition or should have known about it, but failed to effectively eliminate the hazard or block access to the hazard. The defendant may also be held liable for failing to notify visitors about possible dangers. Finally, the plaintiff must prove that the injuries he sustained are directly attributable to the property owner’s negligence. The law firm of O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble has significant experience successfully handling premises liability lawsuits. If you have sustained a severe injury due to the inadequate maintenance of someone’s property, you may be entitled to file a premises liability lawsuit to compensate your pain and suffering.