Premises Liability – Slip and Fall Accidents

Tort liability can take on various different forms depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident. In general, tort liability is associated with monetary awards, but some forms of liability can lead to other remedies (such as a restraining order or an injunction). Premises liability (known in some common law jurisdictions as occupiers' liability) is the liability that a landowner or occupier has for certain torts that occur on their land. The duty of a person in possession of land and building to take reasonable care about their safe condition arises in two cases.
Firstly, it may arise towards a person outside the premises, for example, a person using a highway or an  Occupier of adjoining property.
Secondly, the duty of the occupier may arise towards the person entering the premise. While his duty to his neighbor or a person on a highway arises from the improper use of his property, his duty towards the person entering it arises from the conduct in inviting or permitting the latter to enter it. 
Does an occupier of the premises owes an obligation to the people who enter his premises? Can the people who enter the premises sue the owner if they are injured? What would be the case if the person entering the premises is a trespasser or a child?

Slip and Fall Accidents
A slip and fall injury, also known as a trip and fall, is a premises liability claim, a type of personal injury claim or case based on a person slipping (or tripping) on the premises of another and, as a result, suffering injury. It is a tort. A person who is injured by falling may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injury from the owner or person in possession of the premises where the injury occurred. 

Property owners have two basic defenses to slip and fall claims:

Lack of negligence: The defendant may argue that they were not negligent in creating the condition that caused a person to trip or slip, or were not negligent in correcting the condition before the injury occurred. For example, the owner of a grocery store may claim that the banana that a patron slipped upon had been dropped on the floor only moments ago by another patron, and that, in the exercise of due diligence, a typical store owner acting with reasonable care would not have had time to discover the danger and take steps to mitigate the danger.

Lack of fault: The defendant may claim that the injured person was responsible for his or her own injury. For example, the owner may claim that any reasonable patron, exercising due diligence for his or her own safety, would see a banana on the floor, and take those steps necessary to avoid slipping on it.

There are many situations where a homeowner may have a potential “Premises Liability” issue. A homeowner has a duty to use reasonable care to maintain the premises in a safe condition and a duty to use reasonable care to learn of the existence of any dangerous or unsafe conditions on his premises.  That could cause harm to anyone. Other examples are: liability for violation of local building and plumbing code, Fire Code violation, damage from defective water heaters and slip and fall accidents. 

The key question
The critical question under the 'Assumption of Risk' defense is whether the perceived danger was obvious. It is not always easy to determine! 
In this case, the shooting range argued that the risk of playing paintball was obvious. The defendant even signed a waiver that she understood.   Furthermore, she chose to play on even when she knew that the mask was loose and did not fit well.

Common duty of care
The Act next establishes a uniform duty towards all lawful visitors, thus abolishing the distinction between contractors, invitees and licensees. Section 2 provides that the occupier has a "common duty of care" to all lawful visitors, although it keeps the low duty of care towards unlawful visitors such as trespassers. The new duty is defined as "a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there".
The Act allows the occupier to set limits on where the visitor is allowed to go or how long they are allowed to be there, an extension of the common law judgment made by Scrutton LJ in The Calgarth [1927], when he said that "when you invite a person into your house to use the staircase, you do not invite him to slide down the bannisters, you invite him to use the staircase in an ordinary way in which it is used". 
In order to establish that a business/property owner or possessor knew of a dangerous condition, it must be shown that:
1. The owner/possessor created the condition.
2. The owner/possessor knew the condition existed and negligently failed to correct it; or
3. The condition existed for such a length of time that the owner/possessor should have discovered and corrected it prior to the slip and fall incident in question.

Generally speaking, Premises Liability is a type of Personal Injury law that holds owners or occupants of the property responsible for individuals that are seriously injured while on their premises. The basis of liability is a foreseeable risk inherent in the very nature of the activities. This is founded on the principle of Strict Liability where negligence based on foreseeable harm is presumed. The doctrine of Strict 'Liability originated in the case of Rylands v. Fletcher, (1868) LR 3 HL 330. Under the principle of Rylands v. Fletcher a person who brings dangerous substances upon premises and carries on a dangerous trade with them is liable if, though without negligence on his part, these substances cause injury to persons or property in their neighbourhood. It is immaterial whether he is or is not aware of the danger at the time when he brings and uses them.


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