January 10th, 2020
Premises Liability in Pennsylvania
When a person is injured on another person’s property, whether that property is a business location or another person’s home, the injured person may have what is known as a Premise’s Liability claim against the owner and/or person/business renting that property where the person was injured. Like all other personal injury claims, for an injured party to recover the damages they suffered the injured person must prove four (4) things:
- The property owner and/or person/business renting that property owed a duty of care to the injured person;
- The property owner and/or person/business renting that property breached this duty of care;
- The breach of care caused the injured person’s injuries; and
- The injuries caused by the breach resulted in actual damages to the injured person
In a Premise’s Liability claim, the duty owed by the owner and/or person/business renting that property depends on whether the injured person is classified as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser at the time they were on the property and sustained the injury.
- A person is classified as an invitee if the person has either express or implied permission to be on the property for some business purpose or social purposes. An example of an invitee is a person entering a store to shop for something.
- A person is classified as a licensee if the person is invited to be on the property for some personal or social purpose that doesn’t benefits the owner of the property. An example of a licensee is a person attending a party at a friend’s house
- A person is classified as a trespass if they enter onto property without permission or the consent of the property owner and/or person/business renting that property.
Under Pennsylvania Law, a property owner and/or person/business renting that property owes an invitee the highest duty of care. a duty of care to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to either repair or warn of any dangerous condition on the property that it either knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known existed. A lesser duty of care is owed to a licensee. A property owner and/or person/business renting that property owes a duty of care to warn licensees of any known hazards. However, unlike the duty owed to an invitee, there is no positive duty to inspect for dangerous conditions or to repair dangerous conditions once they are discovered. The duty of care owed to trespassers is very low. A property owner and/or person/business renting that property need only refrain from willful, wanton or reckless conduct that could harm a trespasser. However, there is a subsection to the trespasser rule that is typically applied to trespassing children. This exception, known as the “Attractive Nuisance Doctrine” holds that where the property owner and/or person/business renting that property is aware that a child/children are entering onto the property to investigate something on the property which is attractive to them, such as farm machinery, farm animals, lakes and barns, swimming pool, etc., the property owner must take reasonable steps to make the premises as safe as possible by limit access to the hazard or if necessary, removing the hazard.
It is important to remember that a person’s classification on another person’s property may change. For example, a person might enter a store to purchase something [an invitee]. However, while in the store they enter an area that is marked “private” or “employees only”. If that customer enters into that area of the premises, they would likely be deemed a trespasser as they have exceeded the scope of their purpose for being on the property.
Because the duty of care depends on the classification of the injured person, at the time of the injury, a person trying to win a premises liability claim must prove which classification they fall within at the time of their injury. This is typically proven by providing testimony or other evidence as to reasons the injured person was at the location on the property they were at, at the time of the injury.
If you or a loved one has sustained a serious personal injury due to a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, don’t let the medical bills and lost wages pile up while waiting for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Instead, contact a skilled law firm which will look out for your rights and get you fair compensation for the injuries and losses you sustained as a result of someone else’s conduct.