Pennsylvania Slip and Fall Attorneys
What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a legal concept that typically comes into play when someone was injured by an unsafe or defective condition on someone's property
Just like other personal injury cases, premises liability cases are based on negligence. In order to recover on a premises liability case, the injured person must prove that the property owner was negligent with respect to ownership and/or maintenance of the property. The claimant has to prove that the property owner failed to use reasonable care in connection with the property
There are several important things to note when it comes to these cases. First, just because you were injured on someone's property does not mean that the property owner was negligent. Second, even though the property might have been in an unsafe condition does not automatically mean that the property owner was negligent. The claimant has to prove that the property owner knew or should reasonably have known that the premises were in an unsafe condition, and still failed to take proper steps to remedy the situation.
In evaluating premises liability cases, there are several issues to examine in order to determine whether the potential for liability exists.
What is the Claimant's Status?
In reviewing a premises liability case, the claimant's status must be determined. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the determination of the duty owed by the land possessor toward a third party entering the land depends on whether the third party is a trespasser, lincensee or invitee.
- Under the law, a trespasser is defined as "a person who enters or remains upon land in the possession of another without the privilege to do so created by the possessor's consent or otherwise." Updyke v. BP Oil Company, 717 A.2d 546 (Pa. Super. 1998).
- In Pennsylvania, a trespasser can only make a recovery for injuries sustained on the possessor's land in the landowner was found to be guilty of wanton or willful negligence misconduct. Engle v. Parkway Company, 266 A.2d 685 (Pa. 1970).
- In most cases, the landowner, generally owes no duty of care to the trespasser.
- It should be noted that landowner's owe children a higher duty of care, even if they are trespassers.
- A licensee is a person who is privileged to enter or remain on the possessor's land by virtue of the possessor's consent. Updyke v. BP Oil Company, 717 A.2d 546 (Pa. Super. 1998).
- The licensee enters the land for their own purposes rather than for the landowner's benefit.
- An example would be a social guest visiting a friend or family.
- A property owner has a duty to warn licensees of dangerous conditions on the property that create an unreasonable risk of harm if the property owner or occupier knows about the condition and it is not likely to be discovered by the licensee.
- A licensee is owed a higher duty of care than a trespasser.
- An invitee is either a public invitee or a business invitee.
- A public invitee is a person who visits a property as a member of the public for a purpose that the land is opened to the public.
- Examples of this would include a museum, church, airport, etc.
- A business invitee is a person who is invited to enter or remain on the land for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with the owner's business.
- Examples of this would include customer, delivery people, etc.
- An invitee is owed the highest duty of care by the property owner. Swift v. Northeastern Hospital of Philadelphia, 690 A.2d 719 (1997).
In order to determine whether someone is considered a licensee or an invitee, different factors have to be considered, such as whether the person was invited to enter the land and wether the landowner desires that the individual enter the land. In addition, another relevant inquiry is whether the landowner desired the presence of the public.
In order for the claimant to recover in a premises liability case, they have to prove the existence of a dangerous condition and that the landowner either created the harmful condition or that they had actual or constructive notice of the harmful condition.
If the claimant is unable to prove that the landowner created the dangerous condition, they must prove that the landowner had actual notice or constructive notice of the condition. Swift v. Northeastern Hospital of Philadelphia, 690 A.2d 719 (1997).
- The landowner is aware of the dangerous condition either by direct observation or being told about it by a third party.
- The landowner could reasonably be expected to know about the dangerous condition on their property.
- The courts take into account various factors when determining if the claimant has been able to establish constructive notice of the dangerous condition, such factors include but are not limited to:
- The length of time the dangerous condition existed on the premises;
- How the alleged dangerous condition was created;
- Is there a history of prior incidents involving the same dangerous condition on the property.
Types of Premises Liability Cases
Premises liability cases can encompass a wide variety of lawsuits, some of the most common are found below:
- Slip and Fall Accidents;
- Dog Bites/Animal Attacks;
- Negligent Security;
- Sidewalk/Roadway Defects;
- Swimming Pool Injuries;
- Snow and Ice Injuries;
- School Injuries; and
- Unsafe Elevators/Escalators
Snow and Ice Accidents
Snowy and icy winter weather is a common occurrence in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Because this type of weather is not uncommon in Northeastern Pennsylvania, neither are slip and fall accidents. Landowners have a responsibility to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition for customers, visitors, and guests. This also applies when it comes to snow and ice accumulation. Landowners are not generally required to remove the dangerous conditions during the storm, but need to do so in a reasonable time once the storm ends.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Hills and Ridges Doctrine protects landowners from liability from generally slippery conditions resulting from snowy and icy conditions, where the snow and ice have not been permitted to unreasonably accumulate in hills and ridges. The Hills and Ridges Doctrine requires the claimant to show the following:
- The snow and ice had accumulated on the sidewalk in ridges or elevations of such size and character as to unreasonably obstruct a danger to pedestrians traveling thereon;
- That the property owner had notice, either actual or constructive, of the existence of such condition;
- That it was the dangerous accumulation of snow and ice which cause claimant to fall. Rinaldi v. Levine, 176 A.2d 625 (Pa. 1962).
This doctrine also establishes that generally slippery conditions from snow and ice conditions alone are not sufficient enough to establish liability.
- "There is no liability created by a general slippery condition on sidewalks. It must appear that there were dangerous conditions due to ridges or elevations which were allowed to remain for an unreasonable length of time or were created by defendant's antecedent of negligence." Lascoskie v. Berks County Trust Company, 208 A.2d 463 (Pa. 1965).
This doctrine only applies in cases involving natural accumulations of snow and ice. Meaning, that if a dangerous condition was caused by some factor on the property, or by the owner's neglect, recovery of damages will probably not be limited by the rule. This would include, for example, a busted pipe near a sidewalk that allows water to accumulate and freeze.
What are the Defenses to a Premises Liability Case?
There are several defenses available to a property owner in a Premises Liability case.
- In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, premises liability cases fall under the state's laws of comparative negligence. This means that the amount of your recovered damages will be reduced if you contributed to the slip and fall accident in any way.
- In Pennsylvania, the claimant has a duty to look where he or she is walking to see that which is obvious. Lewis v. Duquesne Incline Plane Company, 28 A.2d 925 (Pa. 1942).
- If the dangerous condition on the property is open and obvious and the claimant could have easily observed it had they been more attentive. Carrender v. Fitterer, 469 A.2d 120 (Pa. 1983).
Assumption of the Risk
- This defense involves the claimant's knowledge or awareness of the risk and hazard of the dangerous condition and voluntarily encounters the risk.
- The claimant has to be subjectively aware of the risk involved in an activity and accept it.
- As mentioned above, the claimant has to prove that the property owner had either actual notice or constructive notice of the dangerous condition.
Common Premises Liability Injuries
Examples of injuries sustained in Premises Liability accidents are found below:
- Neck Injuries;
- Back and Spinal Cord Injuries;
- Head Injuries;
- Arm/Wrist Fractures/Sprains;
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
Just like any personal injury case, the severity of the injuries will depend on a variety of factors and will be different in every potential claim.
Who can be Found to be at Fault in a Premises Liability Claim?
In addition to the landowner, there are a number of other individuals or entities that may be held responsible for your injuries. Potential liable parties include the following:
- A tenant of building/property;
- Security guard or company; and
- Intentional/criminal actors
How Long Can You Wait to File a Premises Liability Claim in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, there is generally a two-year statute of limitations applicable to any civil action in which an individual seeks to recover damages for personal injuries, or for the death of an individual, caused by the wrongful act or negligence of another person. 42 Pa.C.S. §5524.
Recoverable Damages in a Premises Liability Claim
In Pennsylvania, you may be able to recover damages for:
- Medical bills;
- Lost wages/Loss of future earning capacity; and
- Pain and suffering
As mentioned earlier, Premises Liability accidents in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania fall under the state's comparative negligence laws, meaning that the amount of your recovered damages will be reduced if you contributed to the accident in any way. If you had a Premises Liability accident because you were not aware of your surroundings, an insurance claims adjuster or jury may assign a percentage of fault to you. Therefore, if you were found to be 30% at fault and if the amount of your damages was assessed at $30,000, the final amount of your award would be reduced by $9,000 to $21,000 ($30,000 X .20 =$9,000).
Contact Us Today
If you or a loved one have been injured as the result of a Premises Liability accident, call Sklarosky Law today at (570) 283-1200 or use our online contact form and tell us about your potential case. Premises Liability claims can be complex and challenging. Do not wait, call us today so that we can help you obtain the financial compensation you may be entitled to.