Slip-and-fall is a centuries-old term used to refer to incidents where a person is injured when falling on another person’s property. A more technical term within the area of personal injury law, albeit a catch-all phrase, is “premises liability,” which lawyers use to describe claims made against the owners or occupiers of property when someone is injured. Premises liability claims are typically based on negligence.
For courts to hold a defendant liable for negligence, a plaintiff must prove: 1) a legally recognized duty that the defendant conform to a standard of care; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) causation between the conduct and the resulting injury; and (4) actual damage to the plaintiff.
In Pennsylvania, individuals or companies in possession of land are responsible for certain injuries suffered by others on their property. The duty owed by a land possessor is determined by the legal status of the land entrant at the time of the injury. Therefore, it is critical to identify the class of the injured person, and, in the case of visitors to property, these classes are trespasser, licensee, and invitee.
Pennsylvania classifies an invitee as either a public invitee or a business visitor. A public invitee is a person who is invited to enter or remain on the land as a member of the public for a purpose for which the land is held open to the public. Conversely, a business visitor is a person who is invited to enter or remain on the land for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with the business of the land’s occupier.
Although Pennsylvania law recognizes two types of invitees, a land occupier’s duty is identical in both circumstances. Here, it is important to note that landowners owe invitees, which is the most common classification in most retail premises liability cases, their highest duty.
In Pennsylvania, concerning conditions on land, property owners owe business invitees a duty related to dangers that present an unreasonable risk of harm. Pennsylvania law recognizes that invitees are entitled to expect that land possessors will take reasonable care to ascertain the actual condition of their premises and, having discovered any dangers that present an unreasonable risk of harm, and either make them reasonably safe by repair or provide warning of the actual condition and the risk involved.
However, possessors of land are not responsible for discovering, warning, or fixing defects considered “trivial” because they do not involve an unreasonable risk of harm. The general rule regarding trivial defects in Pennsylvania is that although property owners have a duty to maintain their property in a safe condition, property owners are not responsible for trivial defects that exist on the property. Pennsylvania courts have held that an elevation, depression, or irregularity in a sidewalk, street, or highway may be so trivial that, as a matter of law, courts are bound to hold that there was no negligence in permitting such depression or irregularity to exist.
Determining fault in this situation is complicated and may require the assistance of qualified personal injury lawyers experienced in handling claims that result from premises liability accidents. Powell Law’s attorneys have assisted Pennsylvanians hurt in premises liability accidents for over one-hundred years! If you or a loved one has suffered any type of injury, contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE, and you don’t pay anything unless we win.