How Is “Premise Liability” Defined By Law

Most people have never even heard the term “premise liability” used, but it can be relevant in any situation where a personal injury occurs. This is how the law defines premise liability, and what you should do when you think you might have a personal injury claim.

“Premise liability” is an umbrella term under which most other aspects of personal injury law fall. Personal injuries might include: animal bites, slip and fall, danger on the premises, negligence, inadequate security, non-gated swimming areas, inadequate maintenance, unsupervised children, etc. 

But these types of personal injury are only included under the premise liability umbrella when the negligent party is the property owner. Usually, restaurant owners or retail management are responsible for keeping the brick and mortar “premises” safe and secure. 

You can always visit the company’s website to find the names of individuals who might have been responsible for increasing security at the brick and mortar location where you were at the time of an incident.

There are situations where the owner of the infrastructure might not be responsible for injuries that occur there. For example, a landlord might not be responsible for injuries that occur in your rental unit if the lease made you responsible for the underlying cause. For example, if a friend punches you in the face, you can’t sue your landlord for failing to establish adequate security measures on the premises. 

Then again, if your child drowns in the pool because the gate was broken — and your landlord knew about the maintenance issue but did nothing — then you have a case. The same is true if someone breaks into your apartment by taking advantage of a locking mechanism defect when that lock was recalled. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to know about these issues. Not knowing is tantamount to negligence. 

An example of liability of a store or restaurant owner might occur when the floor has been mopped but there is no “wet floor” sign to warn customers. There are less common occurrences, of course. Let’s say there’s a flickering light in the store. You walk underneath at the exact time the bulb explodes. A shard of glass lands in your eye. You’ll need surgery — and the store or restaurant owner is liable for the entire incident. 

“Duty of care” usually factors into premise liability cases. Duty of care is the measure of caution owed to a specific type of visitor. Sometimes state laws differentiate between “invitees,” or those who were invited to the property for business, versus “social guests,” who were invited there absent a professional relationship. 

Duty of care can also depend on other aspects such as age. A customer might not be owed the same duty of care as a child who swims at the apartment pool. Adults are expected to accompany children to these locations, but premise liability is why apartment complexes with pools usually have a lifeguard too. 

State law might also result in restrictions on how much a plaintiff might receive during a lawsuit or limit the amount of time someone has to file one.

Walmart Razor Blade Allegedly To Blame For Woman’s Injury

Texas resident Silver Taylor launched a premise liability lawsuit against department store behemoth Walmart after a wayward razor cut her hand — repeatedly. The dangerous blade was caught until a shopping cart. You think you’ve heard it all when Walmart is at the heart of a story, but then Taylor’s story comes out of nowhere.

Taylor said, “I had several cuts to my hands and at that point I had lost so much blood I lost consciousness. [I had] large lacerations on my hands. I also hit my head pretty hard and I fell hard on my back.”

One probably wonders whether or not this is a frivolous lawsuit. Pictures of the injury show what appears to be a number of small cuts with dried blood around them. What they certainly don’t show is a traumatic or life-threatening serious injury as the lawsuit or Taylor’s claims seem to imply. Premise liability certainly requires Walmart to pay for Taylor’s medical bills.

“I can’t do normal things,” she says. “So I feel helpless. I didn’t get to make Thanksgiving dinner. That’s not fair. It’s not fair.”

She also says the injuries have affected her ability to do simple tasks such as run errands for her children. “No, I’m not okay,” she continued. “I’m not okay at all. I feel like a failure to my children because I’m such a rock in my household. My tools are broken. My tools are injured. I’m a mom. I’m a wife and I can’t do the smallest things, like open up a refrigerator door.”

Taylor says a settlement in her premise liability lawsuit isn’t enough — she wants an apology. “I’d like an ‘I’m sorry,’” she said. “I’d like Walmart to not treat me as a blanket statement of all their other injuries that have happened in their stores. I’m a human being.”

According to Taylor’s attorney, Brad Wurster, hidden razor blades are a real problem in Walmart. “It’s not just one consumer or a few consumers,” he said. “This is a person that goes in that is a patron of their business and they need to be more proactive than reactive. Is it really going to have to take someone dying over this or a fatal wound before changes actually occur?”

It sounds almost like Wurster wants to put together a class-action razorblade lawsuit. Obviously, a razor blade lying around is a serious problem for Walmart. If a child had picked it up, then Wurster is right — someone could have been seriously injured or even passed away as a result. But Taylor’s claims of being totally helpless seem immensely embellished, based on the pictures.

Walmart spokespeople responded: “The safety of our customers and associates is always a top priority. We completed a thorough investigation and have been unable to substantiate Ms. Taylor’s claims.”

Premise Liability: Negligent Security

If you have been injured due to criminal activity there may be another party who can be held liable for your injuries. Negligent security is a form of premise liability that helps victims of crimes seek compensation from property owners whose actions (or inactions) led to the criminal activity. Property owners must provide a reasonable duty of care such as protecting visitors from crimes by third parties. Negligent security cases are only viable if it can be shown that foreseeable criminal activity could have been prevented by appropriate security measures.

It might be more common sense to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator of the crime, however, if the criminal isn’t caught or doesn’t have assets, damages will be minimal if any at all. By filing a premise liability lawsuit against the property owner, they are more likely to have an insurance policy that covers liability. Therefore, you are really suing his insurance company. In order to be able to file, it must be shown that you suffered actual damages such as medical expenses, loss of income, lost future earning potential and pain and suffering.

Another thing that needs to be proven is whether or not the crime was foreseeable. If crime is prevalent in the location and nothing has been done to rectify the situation then the crime could have been foreseeable. However, if this was the first time a crime was committed on the property, it will be hard to show that the crime was foreseeable. Adequate security also varies from case to case but includes things such as security patrols, lighting, locks and restricted number of keys.

Certain states have safety measures that businesses must comply with to avoid being held liable in a crime. These include security cameras, safety cash drop boxes as well as having cash registers with a limit to how much money is in it. If the business fails to meet these standards than it can be held liable.